By Michael Collins

Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat – August 3, 2006

WIDE OPEN SPACESIt’s been nearly three years since CityBeat’s and its sister papers’ reports on toxic issues plaguing Ahmanson Ranch helped force would-be developer Washington Mutual to sell the gorgeous land to the state for public open space. In December 2003, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy opened the 2,983-acre Ahmanson Ranch property to the public, joining it with the existing 2,650-acre Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Park.

This vast expanse of golden rolling hills, dotted with centuries-old Valley Oaks and creased by sycamore-lined canyons, connects the wildlife corridor between the Santa Monica Mountains and the ranges to the north in Simi and Tehachapi. The plethora of fauna and flora includes endangered and protected species such as the California red-legged frog, the San Fernando Valley spineflower, and the Southwestern willow flycatcher. At night in the spring and summer, the croaking of frogs and the howls of coyotes add a spooky aura to this Old California realm.

The ranch encompasses the headwaters of Malibu Creek, which have, in places, been colored by an unnatural oily sheen that may or may not be from the adjacent, heavily polluted Santa Susana Field Laboratory. The headwaters flow to Santa Monica Bay and support one of the few remaining populations of Southern steelhead trout, which, according to historical reports, may have swam and leapt unimpeded upstream to brooks on Ahmanson.

San Fernando Valley access to the park is via the aptly named Victory Trailhead, at the western end of Victory Boulevard in West Hills, and, in Calabasas, at the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Trailhead at the northern end of Las Virgenes Canyon Road. The trails are open to trekkers, mountain bikers, and equestrians during the day. For info, visit or call (310) 589-3200.