Triangle Ranch Preserve

In November, the public will decide funding for the FINAL PHASE OF THE Triangle Ranch acquisition of 84 acres in a bond measure on the ballot. Above, map of Triangle Ranch, showing all four acquisition phases.

Triangle Ranch, 320 acres of land near the base of Ladyface Mountain in Agoura Hills, is another major step closer to becoming permanent open space. The property, at one time slated for a development with as many as 81 houses, is being acquired by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) in a complicated four-stage plan. The process highlights the challenges of securing funding for new parkland.

The first phase, completed earlier this year, consisted of 60 acres between Kanan and Cornell roads that included a critically important creek and habitat for the endangered Western pond turtle. That portion of the acquisition was funded with grants from propositions 1, 40, 50, and 84.

Phase 3 of the Triangle Ranch open space acquisition plan includes this section of Ladyface Mountain, home to critical habitat for several federally listed species, a key wildlife corridor, and an unofficial hiking trail that has long been popular with local walkers. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

The second and third phase are now moving forward with funding from several more sources. The Agoura Hills City Council voted unanimously July 11 to approve $800,000 towards the $10,675,000 price tag for the second and third phase of the land acquisition.
The MRCA is matching Agoura’s contribution. The Hilton Foundation, headquartered just down the road from the property, donated $500,000, and the Wildlife Conservation Board is expected to provide a grant of $3,400,000. The board of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservation (SMMC), sister agency to the MRCA, voted on July 23 to authorize a grant for the rest of the funding for these two phases from Measure 68 funds that are specifically earmarked for habitat protection. The bond measure was approved by voters in June.

Phase 2 is adjacent to the Phase 1 property, along Cornell Road. Phase 3 is directly at the base of Ladyface Mountain in the bend of the road along Kanan. That property is already the site of a popular (although currently unofficial) hiking trail, and the acquisition will preserve not only the access but a major mountain viewshed, visible all the way across the valley from the Saddle Peak viewpoint in Topanga. However, the element that tipped the balance towards conservation and has stalled the development of the property for decades is the habitat on site.

The entire property is listed as a Significant Ecological Area, or SEA, making it eligible for the Prop. 68 grant.

The presence of Lyon’s Pentachaeta, a tiny annual wildflower also known as “pygmy daisy,” (seen above and below) and several other critically endangered, federally and state-listed species, helped tip the balance for Triangle Ranch being preserved as open space, rather than developed into a housing tract. Photos by Suzanne Guldimann

The area is described as key habitat for a large number of protected animals and plants, but it was one very small thing that tipped the balance in favor of preservation. According to state records, Triangle Ranch is home to one of the most genetically diverse populations of the federally protected Pentachaeta lyonii, a tiny yellow flower that is increasingly rare.

“Preservation of Triangle Ranch Phases 2 and 3 will provide a broad habitat connection between the Liberty Canyon wildlife corridor (including the proposed 101 wildlife bridge) and the Ladyface Mountain core habitat area,” the July SMMC staff report states. It will also preserve habitat for more than half a dozen federally listed species, including the pentachaeta flower.

There is one final phase in the 320-acre, $30.5 million Triangle Ranch acquisition: 84 acres sandwiched between Phase 3 and an earlier MRCA acquisition. Funding for this parcel still has to be found. Advocates for the project are hoping that a bond measure on the November ballot will fill the gap.

Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is a writer, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She’s covered environment, arts, science, history and crime for the local media for more than a decade and is the author of nine books of music for the Celtic harp. She can be reached at s.guldimann@messengermountainnews.com

3 Comments
    1. Thank you, Steve! You and all of the Agoura and Cornell activists who have worked for this land to be preserved are accomplishing something amazing. Keep up the good work!

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