Woman warrior

Mary Wiesbrock saved her beloved hills
Matthew Jaffe

When Mary Wiesbrock and her family began looking for a home in Southern California in 1976, she found herself drawn to the area around Agoura Hills. For Wiesbrock, a Tennessee native, the rolling hills and oaks reminded her of home. "When we got here," she recalls, "I knew that this was where I wanted to live and raise my children." Thirteen years later, Wiesbrock helped protect those very things that had first drawn her. She was one of the early leaders battling to stop a $2 billion development at 2,983-acre Ahmanson Ranch on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

May is a splendid time to celebrate ― and explore ― Wiesbrock's achievement. Last fall, after countless hearings and lawsuits, Washington Mutual agreed to sell the property to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for $150 million in Proposition 50 parkland funds. Currently, 15 miles of trails are open for use, and they're at their best in spring.

Today, Wiesbrock, a former biology teacher and a part-time medical technologist, continues to work with the environmental group she founded, Save Open Space (818/226-8315). She's focused less on celebrating her recent accomplishments than on looking ahead at other environmental goals. Still, there are moments.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," she says. "I just have to keep telling myself, 'It's real, Mary, it's real.'

"You stand there and know there won't be 3,000 homes. It's something that future generations will look back at and say, 'Gosh, who had the wisdom to save this area when everything else was cemented over?' "

To the trail

To get to the former Ahmanson Ranch property, from U.S. 101 in Calabasas, exit at Las Virgenes Canyon Rd.; go north to the dead end; www.smmc.ca.gov or 310/589-3200.