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How The Aliso Canyon Gas Leak Helped Create An Open Space Preserve

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A stretch of woodlands once poised to become a gated community between Porter Ranch and Chatsworth is now Southern California’s latest open space preserve.

The California Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority today officially dedicated the 257-acre parcel of land, known as Hidden Creeks Ranch, after a years-long tug-of-war.

Though the property has changed hands over those years, it was most recently proposed as the backdrop for a housing tract called Hidden Creeks Estates and Preserves, a 188-home gated community and private equestrian center.

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The proposed layout of the Hidden Creeks Estates & Preserve housing development near Porter Ranch (Starwood Land Advisors, via hidden-creeks.com)
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Community groups argued the project would doom local wildlife and contaminate the groundwater supply, but it took an entirely different environmental disaster to finally derail it.

That’s because the property is right up against the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, the site of the largest methane gas leak in U.S. history – and after 2015, the incentive to build new homes so close to the facility waned, and local lawmakers stepped in to try to halt the project.

Finally, after many more rounds of negotiations with developers, L.A. County and a number of conservation agencies chipped in to purchase Hidden Creeks for $6.7 million in November 2019. It's now open to the public.

“It’s a turn-key acquisition, because the existing ranch roads create a system of trails for us already,” said Paul Edelman, the chief of natural resources and planning for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

It also directly connects to another 11,000 acres of woodland managed by the MRCA, making it a critical wildlife corridor with the neighboring Santa Susana Mountains.

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“It’s a place to go to see the contrast between where the urban and suburban world stops, and where real wilderness begins,” said Edelman. “It's about as stark of a place where you can see that — I think anywhere I've ever seen in my life."

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