Feb. 4, 2002 — Property owner Mark Gates (yellow shirt in distance) with reporter Patti Shea (left) and photographer Reneh Agha (foreground) of The Signal in the woodland portion of the Needham Ranch — part of the open-space wildlife corridor to be deeded to the city of Santa Clarita as parkland.
Prohibitionist Henry Clay Needham bought large portions of the Rancho San Francisco,
surrounding the little town of Newhall, in 1889, for the purpose of
establishing a "dry colony." The idea didn't sell, but Needham became
an important community leader and philanthropist in addition to being a prominent
orator on the national stage, even seeking the Prohibition Party's nomination
for U.S. President in 1932. He died in 1935, and in 1957 his heirs sold about 770 acres of the property
— the portion bounded roughly by Pine Street, San Fernando Road and Sierra Highway — to Mark Gates Sr.,
the funeral director at Eternal Valley Cemetery. Gates eventually sold off the 220-acre cemetery
In the 1990s, Gates' son, Mark Jr., prepared to develop the remaining 584 acres (including some
adjoining acreage owned by SCV businessman Hank Arklin) as the Gate-King Industrial Park (initiall the "Needham
Ranch" business park). The UP/Metrolink (formerly Southern Pacific) tracks and underlying land
bisect the property, with the Railroad Canyon entrance to the San Fernando Train Tunnel in the middle.
Also of note is the Pioneer Oil Refinery, deeded in the late 1990s by Chevron to the City of Santa Clarita,
on an "island" at the project area's northeastern extremity. The "Live Oak Manor" rock
archway on Sierra Highway is to be preserved; it is adjacent to the future southern entry into the business
park. Plans call for about 180 acres of dense oak woodlands on the southwestern side of the Gates (Gate-King) property
to be deeded to the City of Santa Clarita as permanent open space.