“I am very encouraged and very confident we will achieve our goal because already we have tremendous support from people who are vitally interested and involved in the community,” Howell said.
The undeveloped land is situated at the top of Rosemont Avenue at the mouth of Goss Canyon, a privately owned, 200-plus-acre patch of wilderness. It was purchased by the Whalin family — who own and operate La Cañada Preparatory and the Learning Castle in La Cañada Flintridge — in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Justin Whalin.
They intended to build a school on the site, he said, but after hearing the concerns of neighbors they chose not to proceed. Instead, last year they entered into an exclusive right-to-buy agreement with the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy that was recently extended through April.
The family is willing to sell the property — which is zoned for single-family homes — below market value as a gesture of thanks to a community that has supported its businesses for many years, Justin Whalin said.
Howell first presented the idea of preserving the land to the Crescenta Valley Town Council in September.
“I would say that every resident I heard from on Olive [Avenue] seemed satisfied, and seemed supportive of preserving that land as open space,” said town council President Cheryl Davis .
The project is consistent with La Crescenta’s identity as a semi-rural community, she said, adding that the town council submitted a letter of endorsement to Antonovich’s office.
“There are a lot of areas that have trees and no sidewalks and no streetlights,” Davis said. “I think people who move into our area realize that and like that, that is why they like to keep it that way.”
Founded in 2000, the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy has spearheaded similar projects in the foothills, including preserving Rubio Canyon in Altadena.
A preliminary biological survey of the La Crescenta site identified extensive plant life, as well as mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, bears, coyotes, Arroyo toads and 31 species of birds, Howell said. A second, more extensive study would be conducted if the preservation plans come to fruition.
The land is an asset both to the wildlife and the people who reside in the foothills, Howell said. It includes a small stream and a short trail that could be suitable for hiking and bird watching. It might also serve as a gateway to the wilderness that surrounds the community.
Further, the property could potentially be used to help educate people about the history of the foothills he said.
“It really is an opportunity that goes beyond saving the land,” Howell said.