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Welcome to "Paradise on Earth, California style"

The Gillette Ranch.

The Gillette Ranch. NPS photo.

Here's some good news as we near the end of 2008—you're part-owner of a spot described as "Paradise on earth, California Style." Your on-site managers are working on a plan for the place, and you're welcome to give them your ideas.

The King Gillette Ranch is a 588-acre gem in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Razor baron King Camp Gillette bought the property in 1926 and commissioned a leading Los Angeles architect to build a "paradise on earth, California style." The property changed hands several times before being acquired for public parkland in 2005 through a unique collaboration of park agencies and interests.

What's special about this area?

One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch is situated in the heart of the Malibu Creek Watershed, by the confluence of five major tributaries, and adjacent to Malibu Creek State Park. This scenic parkland at the lower end of the Las Virgenes Valley is a haven for larger mammals of the Santa Monica Mountains. At the same time, it offers a rare unspoiled view of California’s rich archeological, cultural, and historic resources, including a Chumash settlement, and nationally significant structures designed for razor magnate King C. Gillette in the 1920’s by Wallace Neff, architect of California’s Golden Age.

The broad meadows and low ridgelines serve as a wildlife movement corridor or hub in the geographic center of the Santa Monica Mountains range. Nine sensitive species are present. Raptors and other birds forage and nest among the plant communities of valley and coast live oak savannah, grassland, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, riparian woodland, and southern willow riparian vegetation.

King Gillette Ranch is now owned and managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in cooperation with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area unit of the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and California State Parks. Those groups have embarked on a design concept plan and environmental assessment for the property, and public input is invited.

"We're trying to create a vision for the Gillette Ranch that serves the public in terms of getting them to the National Recreation Area and all the programs that are available," said NPS Superintendent Woody Smeck. "The public is the ultimate customer and we want to engage them in that effort."

Preliminary plans are for the majority of the 588-acre parcel to remain in a natural state. Wildlife and stream corridors and previously disturbed areas will be considered for habitat restoration. The Design Concept Plan may include ecological restoration zones and some use of existing buildings for visitor service improvements including a visitor center, an environmental education facility, agency administrative offices, parking and circulation improvements, and trails.

You need some information before you can make informed comments, and you'll find details about the ranch and the potential plans on-line. Once you've gathered enough information, you can submit your comments. To cut down on wasted paper, the staff is encouraging comments to be submitted on-line, and that same link has instructions for comments by mail.

The deadline for comments is December 2, 2008. The short turn-around isn't the fault of the planning team. It was announced in late October, but just came to my attention. Take a little time and let your ideas be part of the process.

Whether or not you wish to get involved in the planning process, drop by if you're in the area. The site is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset for hiking, bicycling, picnicking, photography and other activities. You'll find more information on the Santa Monica Mountains N.R.A. website.

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