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December 14
1931 - Season's first major storm deposits 9 inches of snow in Newhall, 10 in Saugus [story]


When official Santa Clarita went bonkers a decade ago over a federally approved plan to mine 56 million tons of sand and gravel in Soledad Canyon, there were fears that the mining company’s next-door neighbor – Vulcan Materials Co., the nation’s No. 1 cement producer – would seek federal permits for an even bigger mine.

What a difference a decade makes.

Plans by Mexico’s nationalized cement maker, Cemex, are still on the table, but the company has agreed to work with the city of Santa Clarita to cancel its Soledad Canyon mining plans and legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate to that effect.

Meanwhile, Vulcan has changed its mind – a couple of times. At one point there was talk that Vulcan was interested in seeing its Soledad Canyon property turn into a housing tract.

Turn up the clock to 2011 and the owner of the Vulcan property – Calmat Co., originally known as California Portland Cement Co. – is talking to city officials about selling its property for the enjoyment of the public as permanent open space.

The Santa Clarita City Council will decide Tuesday whether to apply for a state grant to assist in purchasing the 1,141-acre Calmat property, which is adjacent to the proposed Cemex mining site in Soledad Canyon.

The city already owns the Cemex property and neighboring parcels – but the city’s ownership alone can’t stop the Cemex mine. The federal government owns the mineral rights and assigned them to Cemex under contracts executed in 1990. The city purchased the Cemex property as part of its strategy to have greater leverage if the mine went through – and to determine the property’s future if it didn’t.

Today the city is looking to add to the open space buffer around Santa Clarita by adding the Calmat property to it – and eventually another 1,000 acres east of it along Agua Dulce Canyon Road, as well.

The 1,141-acre Calmat property is situated east of Soledad Canyon Road, straddling Agua Dulce Canyon Road just north of the Angeles National Forest boundary. The city-owned Cemex property abuts it on three sides, primarily on the west.

To help pay for the Calmat property acquisition, the city intends to apply for a $250,000 grant available from the California Department of Parks and Recreation for land and water conservation. According to a city staff report, the state agency will award a total of $1 million throughout Southern California this year for land acquisition and the development of recreational amenities such as hiking trails, picnicking areas and wildlife viewing in natural open-space areas.

The city is hoping to get a piece of that pie and add it to a pot of money that would include contributions from the city’s Open Space Preservation District and possibly other agencies such as the county of Los Angeles and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, both of which have partnered with the city in the past to purchase large swaths of open space parkland in the Santa Clarita Valley, such as Whitney and Elsmere canyons.

No purchase price for the Calmat property has been announced. The city-run Open Space Preservation District generally tries to hold prices under $5,000 per acre.

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