On May 15, 2004, a celebration of the creation of the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, commonly known as Ahmanson Ranch, took place at the Hidden Valley homestead of Dr. Richard Grossman, a famed plastic and reconstruction surgeon, and one of the movers and shakers in the battle of Ahmanson Ranch. The party was held as a fundraiser for SOAR – Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources, a “non-profit organization whose mission is to make Ventura County a better place to live by limiting urban sprawl, protecting open space and agricultural lands, and promoting livable and sustainable communities in the county and surrounding regions” according to the SOAR website.

The special guest of honor was Mary Wiesbrock who was so crucial to the Ahmanson Ranch fight that the new park has a trail loop named after her. Indeed, when word of negotiations leaked out in the summer of 2003 that Washington Mutual was bargaining with the State of California over making the proposed WaMu development parkland, we received a telephone call from Wiesbrock who tearfully thanked us for our Ahmanson Ranch coverage, crediting it with shaking the issue loose. “If it wasn’t for your reporting, none of this would be happening,” she said in a message forever ingrained in our hearts and minds. Wiesbrock is the founder of Save Open Space, which has a thousand members in Ventura County.

Wiesbrock, and the folks at this celebration, are the reason that this land is now public parkland. Our role in this saga had to do with exposing possible pollution from neighboring Rocketdyne having impacted the place. If anyone, or anything, is responsible for saving the ranch, it is Rocketdyne’s legacy of radiological and chemical contamination. We just happened to be the ones to expose it — the resultant park was a bonus.

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