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Deadline looms on fundraising for preserve purchase

May 16, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
(The Arroyos and…)

An Altadena-based land trust remains $40,000 short of the sum needed to purchase a 7.75-acre property in La Crescenta that has been dubbed the Rosemont Preserve.

The Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, which wants to safeguard the land as open space for educational and recreational use, set a total project goal of $450,000 and started raising funds last year. In December, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich pledged $350,000.

Still, donations from local residents have failed to meet expectations, despite decreasing the goal and extending the deadline, organizers say.

Conservancy officials have lowered the community fundraising goal to $75,000 from $100,000 and extended the deadline to May 31. But the amount raised remains $40,000 short of what’s needed, said Executive Director John Howell.

Three community members have agreed to collectively contribute $20,000 if residents can generate the other $20,000, he added.

“It is going to be a community resource,” Howell said. “It is really urgent that the community recognize the importance of reaching this goal and make their commitment known now.”

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The property sits at the top of Rosemont Avenue at the mouth of Goss Canyon — a privately owned, 200-plus-acre patch of undeveloped hillside. It was purchased by the Whalin family — owners of La Cañada Preparatory and the Learning Castle in La Cañada Flintridge — in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Justin Whalin.

The family intended to build a school on the site but abandoned the idea after neighbors expressed concerns, Whalin said. Last year, they entered into an exclusive right-to-buy agreement with the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy.

As part of its fundraising efforts, the conservancy has hosted 10 docent-led walks on the property, Howell said.

“The whole idea was to come out to the property and experience it as you would experience it once we own it,” Howell said. “People really relate to it. I think it really has been a good program, but we haven’t come close to what we need to raise by doing that.”

A preliminary biological survey of the site identified extensive plant life, as well as mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, bears and coyotes, arroyo toads and 31 species of birds. It also includes a small stream and short trail that could be suitable for hiking and bird watching, proponents said.

“Preserving green space around our urban setting is really important from a conservation standpoint,” said Frank Colcord, a La Crescenta resident and an environmental engineer who has thrown his support behind the project. “These kinds of properties can also help build and maintain community.”

Founded in 2000, the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy has spearheaded similar projects in the San Gabriel foothills, including the preservation of Rubio Canyon in Altadena.

Twitter: @megankoneil

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