Patti Rasmussen [Signal Staff Writer]
In the continuing game of political hot potato over the maintenance of the Castaic Lake State Recreational Area, California’s attorney general has issued a strong warning to the county: If the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation breaks its 50-year contract and walks away from its responsibility to maintain the facility, it could result in a lawsuit.
County officials have told the state they no longer have the money to maintain the facility and will walk away from it on Sept. 7.
Deputy Attorney General Todd Valdes wrote in an Aug. 22 letter to county attorney Helen Parker that any failure on the part of the county to perform under the agreement, signed by the county in 1969, would be “improper (and) constitute a material breach of the operating agreement,” in addition to harming the public and exposing the county to liability.
The letter also states that since the county collects all fees for service at the lake, rates could be raised to make up for revenue shortfalls.
The lake was on the county budget-cut list and scheduled to close on Labor Day. But Los County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich designated $50,000 from his discretionary funds to keep the facility open another week.
Officials from both the state and county parks departments met last week with local residents at a Castaic Area Town Council meeting. Both agencies claimed they would not accept responsibility for the lake.
Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, has been vocal about the need to keep the lake open, and for the county to honor its contract obligations.
He said many people at the state level are displeased with the county’s decision to abandon the lake.
“Castaic Lake is not only a valuable recreational resource for the community, it is an economic engine for the surrounding area,” Richman said. “It is critical for the state, county, (Castaic) Town Council and the city of Santa Clarita to work together to ensure that the lake remain open.”
Town Council President Bob Lewis said the council is open to meeting with anyone.
“That was the whole purpose of the Town Council meeting last week,” he said. “We will go anywhere and meet with anybody to keep the lake open.”
No one from the county attorney’s office or the state attorney general’s office returned phone calls. Antonovich was out of town and could not be reached for comment.