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National Park Service Meets with Community, Asking What's Needed in New Visitor Center

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About 30 people gathered yesterday to assist the National Park Service and other regional parks agencies in developing a new interagency headquarters, centrally located in the Santa Monica Mountains at King Gillette Ranch, just outside of Calabasas.

"The visitor center is a jumping off point for the mountains," explained Ron Schafer, the Angeles District superintendent California State Parks, one of the other agencies involved in the headquarters. The current visitor center is located within the city of Thousand Oaks, across the street from a mall.

The public workshop--another one is scheduled for Saturday--had attendees listen to current plans, ask questions and most of all, tell planners how they envision the visitor center and surrounding area within the ranch. Feedback sought included how to develop public gathering spaces (an amphitheater or picnic areas?) , visitor amenities (interactive displays, a store, a coffeeshop?), recreational activities on the ranch (classes, group hikes, speakers series?) and wayfinding (signage, trailheads, maps, etc).

Officials are trying to minimize the environmental impacts of development with the new center. The property, first built by King Camp Gillette (yes, razors) and later home to a small university, already has a handful of buildings and a parking lot, which will be used in the new plan.

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After tomorrow's meeting, planners will use public comments to refine possible visions for the center, develop a draft plan for additional public comment in the Winter and release the final plan next Spring or Summer. A webpage dedicated to the plan can be found here.

Designated by congress in 1978, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is considered the country's largest urban national park. It stretches from Los Angeles to the coast and covers some 153,000 acres of land, managed by various agencies including the National Park Service, California State Parks, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

- King Gillette Ranch: An Easy Hike with Great Views
- Second Century Commission Releases Report, Features Santa Monica Mountains
- Thousands Gather in Santa Monica Mountains for 12-Hour Movie about the National Parks (the Ken Burns documentary premieres, in part, this weekend on PBS)