Leon Worden




Brightly burns the flame of Cityhood

By Leon Worden

Wednesday, May 1, 1996

A
s much as we like to fight each other over development issues in this town, I think most people agree about something: We appreciate the special things that make Santa Clarita's individual communities unique.
    That's why I love the idea of Old Town Newhall.
    In a manner of speaking, Old Town Newhall — and feel free to substitute "Canyon Country" or "Saugus" or "Valencia" if you please — is the reason we formed a city nine years ago.
    Sure, building roads and controlling unbridled growth were reasons. But adequate roads and good planning policies are really pieces of a bigger puzzle.
    Cityhood, at its essence, was a last-ditch effort to hold onto something that can't quite be quantified, but which we know is distinctly, inherently, "us."
    Pro-growth, anti-growth, Republican, Democrat, Catholic, Jewish, white, Latino, it doesn't matter. Old Town Newhall is who we were, and with a lot of patience and hard work, it can be a place we'll want to call "home" again.
    Santa Clarita can grow all it wants. Small-town America isn't about size.
    You don't have to live in Newhall to know what I'm talking about. Heck, I live in Saugus.
    The alternative to Old Town Newhall is unacceptable. The alternative is to become just one more sprawling suburban mess, with all the urban problems.
    Some say we have already lost the battle.
    Ignore the nay-sayers.
    Why do we fight so hard to preserve our heritage? Why do we fight so hard to stop gangs, drugs and graffiti? Why do we fight so hard to keep landfills out? Because we care.
    We just had another great Olde Towne Days and the biggest Cowboy Poetry Festival ever. Our Boys and Girls Club Auctions continue to rake in beaucoup bucks for local youth programs. Why? Because we care.
    Show me one person who no longer cares, and I'll show you a dozen who still do. I'll show you a dozen who believe we've got something special in this town that deserves our time and energy.
    Yes, it's a challenge. Anything worthwhile is difficult. Saving ourselves from ourselves is no ballgame.
    But it will take a team effort. It's why it is so terribly important to elect City Council members who have been around town awhile and have a sense of community etched deeply into their very souls.
    Fortunately, we have such a council. And because we have such a council, we have Michael Freedman.
    Freedman is the widely-hailed urban planner from San Francisco who is steering City Hall in the right direction on Old Town Newhall revitalization.
    In a series of town meetings with hundreds of shopkeepers, property owners and community activists over the past year, Freedman did what he has done in communities all over the country: he came in, asked around, and put onto paper a plan for salvaging the best of what we've got, complete with suggestions for making things better.
    It's funny, when you think about it. It took an outsider to show us who we are. But it makes sense. Sometimes you have to stand back and take a good, hard look at yourself before you can move forward.
    Michael Freedman is coming back to Santa Clarita next week. He'll present his recommendations for saving Newhall next Tuesday, May 7, at a City Council study session. Show up at the SCV Senior Center at 7 p.m. to hear what he has to say.
    Otherwise, one day, it will be too late.
    And knowing us, we'll probably blame WalMart.
* * *
    Speaking of things that are "us," Frontier Days and the Fourth of July Parade will be wrapped into one gigantic, blowout weekend this year.
    The 32nd annual Frontier Days Celebration, hosted by the SCV Chamber of Commerce, will run from July 4 through July 7 at the new soccer field on Soledad Canyon Road, across and up from the Saugus Speedway.
    The weekend kicks off at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, July 4, with the 70th annual Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade, hosted this year by Old Town Newhall USA, the City of Santa Clarita and the Downtown Newhall Merchants Association.
    Why mention it now? Because it's time to get ready!
    If you have a business to advertise, a horse to strut, or a child with a shiny new bike to show off, call 297-5261 today for parade entry forms.
    Remember: Santa Clarita is what you make of it!

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


©1996 LEON WORDEN — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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