A Wendy Langhans editorial
Last weekend I led a group of people on a “Full Moon” hike in Towsley Canyon. As we walked back to the park entrance, the moon rose above the encircling mountains, illuminating everything it its glowing light. Nearby we saw the neon-white Elderberry blossom beckoning to wandering moths. We looked southeast and saw the gleaming hills of the Newhall Wedge in the near distance followed by the fainter light of the San Gabriel Mountains in the far distance. We stopped for awhile in silence and took in the sight; even the young cub-scouts were quiet. That’s the power of a viewshed.
As described in the City of Santa Clarita’s general plan, “’Viewsheds’ constitute the range of vision in which scenic resources may be observed. A region’s topography can lend aesthetic value through the creation of public view corridors of ridgelines and mountains and through the visual backdrop created by mountains and hillsides.”
Some people dismiss the value of viewshed as simply an aesthetic decoration and not nearly as valuable as other land-use choices. This is an error. Viewsheds provide us with a sense of place; they also provide psychological and economic benefits. To illustrate my point, ask yourselves the following questions:
1. Why do hospitals build open-air courtyards and patios for their patients?
2. Why do hotels and cruise ships charge more for “rooms with a view”?
3. Why have people traditionally moved to the suburbs?
4. Why do realtors “stage” our homes so that they have “curb appeal”?
5. Why do animals mark their territory and taggers spray graffiti?
Make no mistake – our southern entrance to the Santa Clarita Valley will “stage” our valley. The question is – what kind of stage will it be - a graffiti-like jumble of development or a greenbelt?
Here is what’s currently proposed for the I-5 corridor:
Lyon’s Canyon: 93 homes and 93 condominium units, encroaching upon two Significant Ecological Areas (20 and 63).
Las Lomas: 5,800 residences and 2.5 million feet of commercial, retail and civic space.
Smiser Mule Ranch: located just south of the Lyon’s Canyon exit, this 37-acre parcel would be developed into a 600,000 square-ft mixed use commercial and residential complex, with 1,000 condominiums and a 10 story hotel.
Here is what you can do: Vote.
There is currently a ballot measure before the voters in the City of Santa Clarita to create an Open Space Preservation District, which would provide funding to purchase additional open space in the Greenbelt and increase the likelihood of receiving matching fund from other government agencies. In the Engineer’s report, the City has identified 5 key areas for potential acquisition that support the Greenbelt’s key ecological functions. That is one of many reasons why the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy supports the measure.
But don’t just take my word for it. “Crowds tend to be wise only if individual members act responsibly and make their own decisions. A group won’t be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do.” (National Geographic, “The Genius of Swarms”, Pete Miller, July 2007, page 146.)
So I encourage you to take a drive south along the I-5 from Santa Clarita to the San Fernando Valley. Really take a look at the southern entrance to our valley. Then decide how you would like it to look.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com. 
To see what's playing on radio station KHTS, go to www.hometownstation.com /or tune in to AM 1220.