Leon Worden

Beale's Cut, parade, the 'Marsha question'

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, June 24, 1998

BEALE'S CUT UPDATE: Before 1910, the only route through the mountains separating the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys was a narrow passage known alternately as Beale's Cut or Fremont's Pass.

Explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson rode through the area in the mid-1840s, carrying out President James K. Polk's policy of Manifest Destiny. In 1863, troops under the command of surveyor general Edward F. Beale used picks and shovels to cut a 90-foot-deep swath through the mountainous impediment.

There is no questioning the historical significance of the landmark, which weathered the test of time until this winter when Mother Nature, in her folly, got the better of it. Her unrelenting rains pummeled the steep canyon walls, hurtling dirt and rocks into the roadway below. It will be some time before the cut can be restored to its original, upright position. Although it is a state historical landmark, there is no money attached to historical landmark status, so that is of little help.

The current property owner, Houston-based Hondo Oil and Gas, plans to build a business park in the area. As mitigation, Hondo will donate Beale's Cut and surrounding acreage to the city as parkland. Hondo filed its development proposal with the city several years ago but it stalled out, and now it looks like it will be several more years before the project will go forward. In the meantime, Hondo has given permission for members of the historical society to enter the property and figure out how to re-cut Beale's Cut.

Why not drive a backhoe up there and "just do it?" It's a little more complicated than that. Care must be given to make sure the hillsides don't collapse again, because next time somebody could get hurt.

A local geologist has volunteered to take a look next month. Stay tuned.

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PARADE UPDATE: What a difference a day makes! Thanks to Mike and Dee Gadbury of the SCV-Newhall Optimist Club and a timely story by Andy Samuelson in The Signal, all systems are "go." The Optimists have graciously offered to co-sponsor the parade and fill the city's requirement for liability coverage, which in years past had been provided by the now-defunct Downtown Newhall Merchants Association.

The parade starts at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, July 4. If you plan to watch, you should stake out a position on the parade route no later than 9 a.m. The parade starts at Hart Park and winds down Walnut Street, turning left on Lyons, right on Orchard Village and right again on Dalbey, ending near Newhall Park where the three-day Country Fair will be going on.

If you want to enter the parade and haven't yet sent in your entry forms, please mail them today. And remember, whether you're a spectator or a participant, Silly String, Super Soakers and other projectiles are prohibited.

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COMMISSION UPDATE: Whenever a new City Council is elected, new appointments are made to the city's parks and planning commissions and, now, to the Newhall Redevelopment Committee. There were fears last week that nobody wanted to participate in our local government because by Thursday only one or two people had signed up for anything. But those fears were allayed Friday with a flurry of last-minute applications. Seven people applied for planning, six for parks and six for redevelopment. Among the six for redevelopment is Marsha McLean, a candidate in the last council election.

McLean has attended most redevelopment committee meetings and is up to speed on the issues, but her application presents a quandary. McLean is on the city payroll as a contract employee, i.e. a consultant, helping write letters and organize support in the fight against turning Elsmere Canyon into a dump. To date, the council has never appointed a city worker or paid consultant to a commission post.

The "Marsha question" has surfaced in the last few days, but according to city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz, there is no hard-and-fast council policy against appointing a paid employee to a commission. As long as the commission and the paid job are unrelated (as in McLean's case), and the commissioner isn't making any salary decisions, it probably shouldn't be a problem.

    Leon Worden is The Signal's special sections editor.

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