2017-06-16 / Community

Grant secures purchase at wildlife corridor

By Hector Gonzalez

A state conservation board has provided the last and largest piece of funding for the purchase of more than 200 acres of open space near the Simi Hills for preservation as a wildlife corridor.

At its May 25 meeting in Sacramento, the California Wildlife Conservation Board awarded a $600,000 grant to the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, which is partnering with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in buying the parcel for $1.2 million.

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will contribute $480,000 in grant funds, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority is adding another $120,000 to help cover the full purchase price.

The land, which belongs to Mark Joncich, was appraised at more than $1.9 million.

Located on a steep slope with elevations varying from 1,150 to 2,100 feet above sea level, the irregularly shaped parcel includes a hilltop with 360-degree mountain views, unique sandstone formations, rocky outcrops, caves and “at least 2,800 feet of an unnamed perennial stream within the Arroyo Simi-Calleguas Creek watershed,” according to a conservation board staff report.

“The parcel is considered important because of its location near two publicly held properties (Santa Susana and Sage Ranch parks), and it connects the Sierra Madre Mountains to the Santa Monica Mountains, providing a wildlife corridor so that there’s no biological isolation between the two mountain ranges,” said Larry Peterson, RSRPD general manager.

Park district officials hope to open escrow on the property within the next few weeks. Once the two other agencies deposit their funds into escrow, Peterson said, the deal could be wrapped up by August.

The public would then have access to the parcel, which sits south of Santa Susana Park and east of Sage Ranch Park. Although no hiking trails exist within the property “that we know of,” Peterson said, there are long-range plans to add a trail and other recreational opportunities for visitors.

“At some point, we’re hoping it’s possible that we could connect a trail system to our existing Santa Susana Park at the east end of town, and that could take hikers to the North American Cutoff (Road in Simi Valley),” he said.

While the purchase is significant for wildlife, it’s just one of many recent land acquisitions for the district, Peterson said.

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