2017-02-23 / Front Page
Family donates 82 acres to open space agency
Earlier this month, the board of the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency voted to accept a donation of 82 acres from the Rasnow family of Newbury Park. The donation represents COSCA’s largest land acquisition in 15 years.
The swath of undeveloped hillside at the southern end of Ventu Park Road links two existing open space areas and brings the entirety of the Los Robles trail into public hands.
Identified as an important wildlife corridor, the group of parcels running east and west was first targeted by COSCA in 1996. The open space agency is a partnership between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District.
At COSCA’s Feb. 8 meeting, CRPD General Manager Jim Friedl said he couldn’t thank the Rasnow family enough for donating the high natural hillsides, which are visible from almost anywhere in the city.
“It’s incredibly generous of them,” he said.
The family, who live atop the mountain peak, will retain control of a road on the land that leads up to their property.
Link in the chain
The Rasnows have loaned the 82-acre portion of their 193-acre estate to COSCA since 1983, when family patriarch Harmon Rasnow and longtime CRPD GM Tex Ward struck a deal to allow the park district to build and maintain a trail access across the property.
The arrangement proved critical to future open space preservation efforts because there are no alternative links between the Rosewood and Los Robles trails, COSCA manager Shelly Mason said at the Feb. 8 meeting.
“That was a really important deal in 1983,” she said. “It was really forward thinking and a great gift to the community to allow that trail connection.”
Tina, daughter of the late Harmon Rasnow, said her family has continued to pay property taxes on the acreage even as the public enjoyed the area free of charge.
The Rasnows have even been willing to purchase additional parcels of land—acreage that was available only to adjoining land owners—at the behest of city officials, she said. Once the donation is finalized, those tax liabilities will shift to COSCA, and the Rasnows will be reimbursed for the additional parcels they purchased.
“I hope we’re finally at the last point,” Tina Rasnow said.
The Rasnow family first offered to donate the land in 2012, while patriarch Harmon Rasnow was alive. He died in December of that year, and since then, city and agency officials have worked with the family to hash out details over parcel boundaries as well as title and easement issues.
COSCA director Ed Jones said he knew Harmon Rasnow while he was in the process of purchasing the land originally.
“I know Harmon would be very pleased if he were here,” he said.
Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña was the first person the Rasnows approached about the donation. A member of the ad hoc committee that oversaw the transfer process, the council member expressed her deepest gratitude to Tina and Eleanor, Harmon’s widow, who also attended the meeting.
“Your father, your husband, had a vision,” she said. “And that vision seems, hopefully, now coming to fruition.”
Conditions of donation
The conditions of the acquisition include rerouting the Los Robles trail below the Rasnows’ existing gate, which would mean building 1.5 miles of new trail, some trail fencing, installation of signs and some minor brush clearance.
Because the trail will have to be rerouted through land on a very steep hillside, acquiring the land for free would still cost the City of Thousand Oaks $499,000, an expense that needs final approval from the City Council.
That would bring the acquisition cost for the land to $6,085 per acre, which is considerably less than the $40,000 it typically costs to acquire an acre for open space, COSCA officials said.
Another important reason for the acquisition is that the lease agreement, in place for more than 30 years, includes a clause that gives the Rasnow family the right to revoke public access with 90 days’ notice.
“It’s really been a gift to have it open,” Mason said.
With this acquisition, public access to the trail will be preserved in perpetuity.
Tina Rasnow said her father always wanted other people to enjoy nature like he did.
“I feel like we’re honoring him and his memory, too, to continue with the donation of the land.”