Leon Worden

This isn't your mother's Canyon Country

Leon Worden · July 10, 1996

I am not a golfer.

It's not that I find the thought of swatting a little white ball around a manicured lawn less than stimulating. It's just that I haven't got time for such noble pursuits.

So in hoping the city will approve construction of the new golf course in Sand Canyon without further delay, it isn't that I'm looking for a new way to fill my Sunday mornings. Rather, it's that the new golf course will be an economic shot in the arm for the whole east side of town -- a side of town that many feel has been spinning out of control for decades, with no clear sense of direction.

A story in the recent Frontier Days catalog captures the frustration. Linda Pedersen (aka "Carolina Kelly") writes about the way the annual Canyon Country celebration has moved from one vacant lot to another since the late 1960s:

"Empty space was easy to find in those early years. As the area grew, and the empty lots filled with shopping centers and tract housing, (Frontier Days) moved to more remote sites near the Santa Clara riverbed. Those areas, likewise, were soon taken up by condominium and commercial developments, and the event was moved once again. . . ."

Shopping centers and tract housing. Condominiums and commercial developments. Bodies packed into Canyon Country like sardines, thanks to county "planners" who accommodated developers willy-nilly in the 1970s and '80s, with little regard for how everything should fit together.

Canyon Country wasn't always like that. It had character -- a flavor not unlike what you still find in Acton or Agua Dulce. You could spit out your window without hitting anyone.

Nobody was jealous of Valencia, because there was no Valencia.

Those days are gone.

Today's Canyon Country isn't your mother's Canyon Country. It certainly isn't the Canyon Country your grandparents knew. It is a different Canyon Country, one that can proudly tout its heritage as it opens itself up to people who wouldn't know a mule from an ass.

And what a heritage it has! Its history easily rivals that of Newhall or Saugus.

This September marks the 120th anniversary of the day Canyon Country was, for one important moment, the showplace of a new era. For it was in Canyon Country, then known as Soledad Township, where Southern Pacific president Charles Crocker drove the famous Golden Spike that connected Los Angeles with San Francisco and the rest of the world for the first time.

And let's not forget that when the Sulphur Springs school district formed in Canyon Country in 1872 it was only the second school district in Los Angeles County, and the first in this valley.

With that kind of background, it is easy to understand why people in Canyon Country gripe about the sinister plot to turn their community into another San Fernando Valley while "everything good always happens in Valencia."

Strange thing is, for what it lacks in history, Valencia makes up in -- what was it? Shopping centers and tract housing, condominiums and commercial developments. The difference is, they were planned.

Now that our City Council has wisely embarked on a road to recovery for downtown Newhall, we come to an even bigger question.

How do we improve the quality of life in Canyon Country?

Perhaps the first thing to do is to recognize that some exciting things are happening in Canyon Country right now, for the first time in a long time.

The new Edwards multiplex cinema, currently under construction at Soledad Canyon Road and Luther Drive, is a good start. With adjoining restaurants and retail outlets, the theater complex will create jobs and give Canyon Country a new, upscale center of activity.

The new ice skating rink, slated for Sierra Highway just above Solemint Junction, not only helps Canyon Country but gives our kids more recreational options.

Finally, the proposed 36-hole championship golf course.

It isn't just a golf course. It's a tremendous economy-builder. It will single-handedly turn Canyon Country into a major destination point for tourists, who will spend their tourist dollars at existing and future business establishments on the east side of town.

New restaurants will come. Hotels will pop up along Highway 14. Folks will have new places to go, people to see, and before you know it, we'll be hearing how "everything good always happens in Canyon Country."

* * *

The Santa Clarita Planning Commission will decide the fate of the golf course next Tuesday evening, July 16. For information, contact golf course developer Stan Fargeon directly at 251-9990.

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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