Opinion: Awesometown

by Cougar News Contributor 0

By Lisa Carroll

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Maya Angelou, American author and poet, recognizes the innate human need to find a place to call home. Having lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for most of my life, I feel that this is a great town to call home, as it is considered a wonderful community in which to raise a family.

Furthermore, Valencia, a subset of the Santa Clarita Valley, has even recently been dubbed, “Awesometown.” But not everything is as “awesome” as this advertising campaign has tried to convey to potential home buyers.

The Santa Clarita Valley has a very broad and extensive history, and many of the city’s inhabitants are unaware of the multitude of historical places and events which have occurred right here in this town.

In 1842, the first documented discovery of gold in California was found right here in Placerita Canyon before the famous California gold rush. Following this event, in 1876, Charles Alexander Mentry brought in the first commercially successful oil strike in California. The remaining ghost town of Mentryville is now home to the longest running oil well on record, finally being capped in 1990. It can still be visited today, on the outskirts of Pico Canyon Road.

Another landmark is Saugus Café, which was established in 1887 and happens to be the oldest still-operating restaurant in the Los Angeles County. Additionally, the homes of two silent movie era stars, William S. Hart and Harry Carey, are located in the Santa Clarita Valley and are open to the public as historical landmarks.

The city’s historical significance can be quite interesting and colorful, and Santa Clarita is known for being the safest city to live in within  Los Angeles County. Although this safe city rating has changed over the years, as Santa Clarita has grown into the fourth largest city in the county, the city has maintained its claim to being the safest city in which to live.

Many families have moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in order to raise their children in a master-planned community, with every neighborhood having a nearby park, pool, shopping center and a highly rated school within close proximity.

The city is very family-oriented, and offers an abundance of activities, sports, organizations and classes for all ages of children through the city’s Parks and Recreation organization. All public schools in the district are rated highly for academic standards, and, specifically, the high schools are known for having highly competitive and award-winning athletic teams.

Santa Clarita is nestled 35 miles north of Los Angeles in between the 5 and 14 freeways, offering easy access to downtown Los Angeles via the 5 freeway, mountain resorts via the 14 freeway, and Ventura beaches via the 126 freeway. The convenient location of Santa Clarita makes any trip easy and relatively close.

Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor Water Park are the local theme parks in town, which boast many record-holding roller coasters and rides that are sure to excite any thrill-seeker. Other attractions in town are the aquatic center, skate park, ice station and the public and private golf courses. In 2006, Money Magazine rated Santa Clarita as number 18 in the top 100 best places to live in America, which I believe has created a great deal of interest for families looking to relocate.

As awesome as living in “Awesometown” may seem, it’s not all rainbows and “happily-ever-afters” for all the city’s dwellers. There has been an astronomical rise in heroin use in teenagers and young adults, striking the community with a great deal of pain, grief and sickness. Captain Paul Becker of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department recently stated that the city of Santa Clarita has had more heroin overdoses than fatal traffic collisions, and that the age range of these victims only consists of 18 to 27-year-olds.

While heroin has been a growing problem for many parts of the United States, presently it seems as though Santa Clarita has been a focal point as a result of adolescents and young adults in this area having easy access to money and too much free time on their hands. The city is making an enormous effort to curb the rise in this drug abuse issue by enforcing earlier education on addiction and overdose.

The number of opiate related deaths last year is staggering. There are 15 drug related deaths confirmed by the Coroner’s Office in 2012, and four others that were still being investigated at the time this statement was made in December by Bob Wachsmuth, a longtime resident and investigator with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Juvenile Intervention Team.

In 2010, there were five deaths, and in 2011, there were seven.  This rapid rise has brought many residents out of the denial stages of recognizing heroin and opiate prescription drugs as being a real problem for the young members of our beautiful city. These statistics also don’t take into account the number of deaths that have occurred with people who grew up out here and happened to overdose in a different city or county. Having personally known and buried many young friends and acquaintances over the years as a Santa Clarita resident has been heartbreaking.

The tragic losses can be felt across the valley, but organizations like Action Family Counseling, Not One More, and HeroinKills.org have stepped up to the plate to raise awareness of our ever growing problem and seek a solution to end the epidemic that has affected so many families.

Another drawback to living in this beautiful city is the high risk of fires, which result from dry winters and even drier summers. In recent years, there have been numerous fires which have decimated regions on the outskirts of town, but fortunately the fire department has managed to both gain control and reduce damage during fire season.

Furthermore, the city is also situated on the San Fernando fault line, and was significantly affected in both the 1971 San Fernando and the 1994 Northridge earthquakes.

Nonetheless, many Santa Clarita residents will proudly attest to how wonderful this town is to raise a family and to begin a new chapter in their lives. Its population has grown 17.5 percent from 2000 to 2010, and is now almost twice the growth experienced in all of Los Angeles County, which proves that many people are glad to call this rapidly-expanding, suburban city their home.

On the other hand, in my experience, it appears that most of the adolescent and young adult residents talk about leaving the town, seeking the independence of living outside of their comfort zones and exploring other cities. However, I believe many of these people rarely end up leaving because they begin to realize what a beautiful place the city of Santa Clarita actually is.

Despite certain drawbacks to living in this pristine community, such as the covert but rampant drug problem and the high fire hazard risks, I believe there are many positive qualities that qualify Santa Clarita as a wonderful town. Its culturally rich and colorful history, along with its excellent school system, has created a desirable suburb in which over 200,000 people prefer to grow up and raise children.

Though I have considered moving to other areas, I have a difficult time imagining calling any other town my home.

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