Mary Wiesbrock saved her beloved hills

When Mary Wiesbrock and her family began looking for a homein Southern California in 1976, she found herself drawn to the areaaround Agoura Hills. For Wiesbrock, a Tennessee native, the rollinghills and oaks reminded her of home. "When we got here," sherecalls, "I knew that this was where I wanted to live and raise mychildren." Thirteen years later, Wiesbrock helped protect thosevery things that had first drawn her. She was one of the earlyleaders battling to stop a $2 billion development at 2,983-acreAhmanson Ranch on the border of Los Angeles and VenturaCounties.

May is a splendid time to celebrate ― and explore ―Wiesbrock's achievement. Last fall, after countless hearings andlawsuits, Washington Mutual agreed to sell the property to theSanta Monica Mountains Conservancy for $150 million in Proposition50 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-timemedical technologist, continues to work with the environmentalgroup she founded, Save OpenSpace (818/226-8315). She's focused less on celebrating her recentaccomplishments than on looking ahead at other environmental goals.Still, there are moments.

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

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

To the trail

To get to the former Ahmanson Ranch property, from U.S. 101 inCalabasas, exit at Las Virgenes Canyon Rd.; go north to the deadend; www.smmc.ca.gov or310/589-3200.

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