Leon Worden

SCOPE: Up a river without a paddle

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, July 1, 1998

uck "sold us down the river." Buck "didn't have both oars in the water." Buck ...

If we can dispense with the stupid clichés now, I'll offer up another one that Will Fleet used in an equally justifiable context the other day and suggest that we've made a mountain out of a molehill. We — the media — have allowed the dozen-or-so SCOPErs to blow Rep. Buck McKeon's request to remove the Santa Clara River from consideration as an American Heritage River way the hell out of proportion.

The river initiative is meaningless, the facts so few that pound for pound (or gallon for gallon), the ink wasted on it in this paper has been excessive.

Here's what we know. And here's basically ALL we know.

  • The initiative would slap the title of "American Heritage River" on 10 or more U.S. rivers. It would appoint a "river navigator," a federal bureaucrat, to help local communities pursue their "river protection goals," whatever they may be. The initiative comes with no federal money (other than the "river navigator's" salary, one would hope) to help communities pursue these unidentified goals. In a June 16 statement, the federal bureaucrat in charge of the program, initiative advisory committee chairman Dayton Duncan, said, "We will recommend that the administration ... come up with strategies to help these communities." In other words, the guy in charge doesn't even know what the initiative might do.

  • To the best of anyone's knowledge, nobody ever asked the owners of local riverbed property — of which there are many more than just Newhall Land — whether they wanted the designation. No local public hearings were held.

  • Back in December, the Santa Clarita City Council signed a letter supporting Ventura County's request to include the Santa Clara River on the list. Apparently our City Council didn't think it important enough to bother to send McKeon a copy of the letter.

  • McKeon simply acted in the interest of his constituents. He received ZERO letters in favor of the initiative and 140 against it, all from residents of the 25th district (and additional ones from outside the district). Spokesman David Foy says the 140 letters were from "ordinary people, not developers." McKeon's office didn't receive a single favorable comment about the initiative until the week of June 15, after McKeon's action to remove the local river hit the press.

  • As of the day before yesterday, McKeon's office had received exactly 12 letters or phone calls about the initiative since June 15 (other than from city officials, who are reportedly discussing it daily) — six in favor and six against.

Now then. I doubt the SCOPErs will quit screaming any time soon, since what they really want is to stop The Newhall Land and Farming Co. from putting up any more nice housing in this valley, and they'll use whatever means available.

But this tactic doesn't hold water.

* * *

Be sure to wave at SCOPE as they go by in the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade on Saturday. An annual tradition for over six decades, the parade starts at 9:45 and travels through the streets of Old Town Newhall, starting at Hart Park and ending at Newhall Park by way of Walnut Street, Lyons Avenue and Orchard Village Road.

We're expecting a fairly light turnout this year, as the Fourth falls on a Saturday and a lot of "regulars" are going away for the weekend. But that won't stop us from having a nice parade, and it should please those (did someone say Tom Frew?) who've said they thought the parade was getting too long lately.

Plan to make a day of it, because right after the parade, the first-ever SCV Country Fair will be going on in Newhall Park at the corner of Newhall Avenue and Dalbey Drive.

The fair actually starts Friday at 6 p.m. with a teen dance and carnival rides — including a giant ferris wheel — continuing through the weekend with all sorts of activities for the little ones, like watermelon eating, egg tossing and greased pig contests, gunny sack and wheelbarrow races, team tug-of-war and a wide variety of non-stop music.

Hours are Friday, 6 to 10, Saturday, 10 to 10 and Sunday, 10 to 6.

The only fireworks this year are at Magic Mountain and over Castaic Lake.

Next week we look east as the SCV Chamber of Commerce hosts its first annual "Canyon Country Jubilee" July 9-12, with sidewalk sales, music, carnival rides and a 5K run-walk. Get out your pocketbook!

    Leon Worden is The Signal's special sections editor.

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