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Proposed Visitor Center for Santa Monica Mountains Takes a Big Step

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The largest urban national park is partly within Los Angeles, yet so many don't know it. Perhaps one of the reasons can be blamed on where the National Park Service set up its visitor center and headquarters 11 years ago this week: in Thousand Oaks. Take a look at the over 153,000 acres that make up the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which basically spans the range from Runyon Canyon in Hollywood to the beaches of Malibu, and you'll see that the suburban Conejo Valley floor is not ideal.

Now a 5-year-old land acquisition near Calabasas is eyed as the new visitor center, which would collaboratively be operated with three other open space and parks agencies. Unlike its current location across from a strip mall, the envisioned center would be embedded within the mountains--"the geographic heart," touts planning documents--at King Gilette Ranch along Mulholland Highway.