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About Martha Michael

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A professional writer for decades and the editor of multiple products from Valley Publications, Martha is in a constant search for new challenges. While maintaining her editing post for more than eight years, she also opened an antiques business and authored her first book, “Canyon Country,” by Arcadia Publishing.

Martha manages two blogs—one for business and one that is more personal—and works to market and perfect her craft in every arena. Lack of energy is never a problem, and Martha is daily generating ideas, taking photos and talking to members of the community. She believes strongly that “everybody has a story.”

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Citadel Krav Maga

| Canyon Country Magazine | April 2, 2020

If you’re fighting off some extra pounds or just looking for an active new hobby, you can train in an Israeli form of self-defense at a new studio in Canyon Country.

Citadel Krav Maga opened its doors last fall, offering kids’ and adults’ classes in this specialized practice which was adapted from hand-to-hand combat techniques used by Israeli Defense Forces.

As an American Krav Maga Federation school, owner John Veverka’s program strives to bring practical self-defense instruction to the public.

“We continue to develop and pressure test our self-defense techniques, but train our students to understand that principles are what will save lives,” he said. “In other words, if a technique begins to fail or the situation changes, the idea isn’t to continue to force the technique, but to immediately adapt to it.”

But instruction is just part of his standard for success.

“It all depends on the instructors and experience of the instructors,” he said. “Krav Maga itself is a myriad of martial arts skills compiled together, but the focus of the program is what changes. Citadel Krav Maga specializes in teaching context behind the techniques based on real world events and attacks, as well as providing stress inoculation drills.”

Veverka trained at a dedicated Krav Maga school, but continues his education at the AKMF Chatsworth Krav Maga location that teaches many disciplines. He served in the United States Marines as an infantryman with deployments to Iraq from 2003-2006.

“I started my Krav Maga journey back in 2012 and continue to train as a 2nd Degree Black Belt,” he said. “In 2016 I began training with the Dog Brothers, which is a full contact stick fighting tribe, and hold the title of ‘Dog.’ This year I have also started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Sergio Machado.”

Veverka and his wife moved to Canyon Country last year.

“We enjoy meeting people from the community and watching it grow,” he said. “We chose the location based on opportunity and growth in the area. There didn’t seem to be any dedicated Krav Maga schools in Canyon Country.”

Their five-year plan includes expanding to increase the training facility space. “Whether that means relocation to purchase our own building or expanding in place depends on the growth of Canyon Country as well,” John Veverka said.

Citadel Krav Maga is located at 17749 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. For more information call (661) 491-KRAV or email info@citadelkravmaga.com. Visit www.citadelkravmaga.com

No Obstacle Too Large for Riley Weinstein

| Canyon Country Magazine | March 25, 2020

Riley Weinstein of Canyon Country is proving to be a mover and shaker in the community – both figuratively and literally. She just completed the Grit Obstacle Course Race in Placerita Canyon and you can expect to see her in future races. In addition to that, Weinstein has planned a Concert in the Park inclusion event for later in the year.

As a member of Results Fitness in Newhall, Weinstein has been stepping up the pace. Last month’s Grit race was the first time she has competed with the local gym’s race team.

“It was so much fun!” Weinstein said. “I had a hard time on the trail run, but it was so incredible and all the other athletes really inspired me. … I am actually going to continue to do these and I possibly will be doing a para Spartan race next month – a race that is kind of like the Grit but with more obstacles and trails, but it is a race for differently-abled athletes. So very exciting!”

Alwyn Cosgrove, who owns Results Fitness with his wife Rachel, is involved in preparing athletes like Weinstein who want to expand their skills.

“Training Riley and developing programs for her, hinges upon not thinking of her as a disabled athlete (she prefers differently-abled), but as I prefer – an athlete,” Cosgrove said. “My niece has cerebral palsy and is part of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, so it’s an interest close to my heart.”

Cosgrove is also involved with USA OCR which is the Olympic governing body for obstacle course racing.

“There has been tremendous growth over the years in the Paralympic version of the sport,” Cosgrove said. “Spartan – a brand of OCR competition – actually held a Para Spartan World Championship last year, which was very inspiring.”

Weinstein will depend on her Results Fitness coaches to get her ready for her next race.

“We start with a look/evaluation/baseline of movement competency with all our members,” Cosgrove explained. “It’s fair to say that Riley started a little bit more compromised than the average beginner, but the cool part is that she improves just the same. … We focus most of her training on strength, core stability and balance. About six weeks prior to the race, we start obstacle specific training and running. As with any athlete, we figure out a way to help her to adapt and gain the physical strength to accomplish her goals based on her abilities.”

A young girl from Bangladesh attended the recent Grit race to watch Weinstein compete. She was in the United States for reconstructive surgery to her face.

“The woman who brought her told me she wanted to bring her to the race to show her that people who are a little different can do anything they set their mind to,” Weinstein explained. “She told me in her country having a disability is not accepted. … I’m so honored to be a role model for those who are differently-abled. It makes me feel so good!”

Paws Stay and Play, Doggie Day Care and Boarding

| Canyon Country Magazine | March 23, 2020

For some dog owners there are times where “stay” is more than just a training command. Canyon Country residents who are looking for that home away from home have a new resource for doggy day care.

Paws Stay and Play opened last month on Sierra Highway in a newly renovated space with the capacity for approximately 70 dogs. Each boarder gets their own space and four of the kennels are “presidential suites.”

“We’ve taken the steps and invested the money into the best kennels available, that dogs would be comfortable and safe in and that would make sanitizing and cleaning the kennels for each dog easier,” said Roya Aliabadi, managing partner at Paws Stay and Play.

Using a new “continuous floor,” there are no seams or spaces where body fluids can get trapped and develop unhealthful conditions.

“It’s not tile, it’s not wood; it’s a very expensive flooring,” she said. “The smaller kennels have removable trays that can be taken out and cleaned completely.”

Dogs that board at the facility have skylights and the daycare room does as well. “It gives them natural light,” Aliabadi said. “We designed it so it looks like home. It looks like the dogs are in the backyard.”

Boarders are taken outside for walks twice a day. And cameras throughout the kennel make it possible for dog owners to watch their pets while they’re away. Clients are given a username and password so they can monitor the dogs 24 hours a day.

“Our staff is trained in doggy CPR,” said Aliabadi, whose background includes working with several dog trainers, both locally and in New York, including Cesar Milan. “I’m passionate about dogs – I’d like to be a dog myself. They live in the moment.”

Aliabadi began on the East Coast, first by volunteering, followed by taking a job in a facility that offered daycare, boarding and water therapy, which is an exercise practice that’s easier on a canine’s joints.

Her partner is a veterinarian who works nearby, so she can reach out to him if one of her boarders becomes ill.

“We are the first all-indoor daycare facility in the valley,” said Aliabadi. “They’re always safe and not in the elements, if it’s cold or if it rains.”

Paws Stay and Play has two heating and air conditioning units for the space so dogs are comfortable.

They can board a total of 30 dogs, and for daycare they can accommodate 15-20 large dogs and the same number of small dogs. They are divided by size and they have separate designated areas for interaction. Some of her clients bring their dogs five days a week and some only twice a week, depending on their schedules.

“There is plenty of room for them to play together,” she said. “And we try to make the dogs use their minds. It makes them more tired because of all the physical activities.”

When one dog “isn’t playing well with others,” there are supervisors to handle it.

“We hang out with them – they’re never alone. There’s always someone in the daycare,” Aliabadi said. “If we see a dog not behaving right, we correct them by a loud noise and if they continue doing that, we just separate the dog.”

New arrivals at Paws Stay and Play undergo a temperament test before their first day. And they have to be up-to-date on all vaccinations including distemper, parvovirus, rabies and bordetella. Staff members can administer medication for your dog if necessary.

“They go to our website, they fill out the registration form which asks for information, their vet’s name, who else can pick up their dog, and we ask them to give us a current copy of the vaccination, which goes into their file,” the new business owner explained. “All dogs are safe – either boarded or in daycare.”

You can board your dog for as long as you want, she said. Some clients are planning for three-week stays at the new kennel.

Paws Stay and Play is located at 17755 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. Call 661-888-2030 or visit PawsStayandPlay.com.

Vista Canyon Bus Transfer Station Breaks Ground

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 24, 2020

The City of Santa Clarita got out the golden handled shovels last month to celebrate the act of breaking ground on a transportation center in Canyon Country. Dozens of visitors gathered at the site of the new bus transfer center at Vista Canyon. Mayor Cameron Smyth, along with City Councilmembers, members of the Metro board, City officials and more were in attendance to help commemorate the start of construction on the project.

Adjacent to the new KB Homes sales office, it is located south of the 14 Freeway off of Lost Canyon Road and will function as Santa Clarita Transit’s hub on the east side of the city. It will feature a commuter platform with seven bus bays, parking spaces, restrooms, bicycle storage and additional enhancements to promote a safe and convenient transit option. The development is one of the many noteworthy amenities on the way at the Vista Canyon Project.

Santa Clarita City Councilmembers listen as Michelle Kampbell reads a congratulatory message from the office of California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith.

Designed to be a “car optional” community, Vista Canyon will be home to both work and leisure opportunities, all within walking and biking distance of each other. Additionally, the community will provide a new Metrolink commuter rail station that will allow for access to downtown Los Angeles in just 60 minutes. Vista Canyon’s encouragement of clean and alternative commute options aims to not only reduce carbon emissions but also aid in maintaining a sustainable living environment.

The Vista Canyon development will consist of 1,100 dwelling units, 646,000 square feet of office space, 164,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and a 200-room hotel. To stay up to date on the new bus transfer center, current service offerings, new route schedules and everything transit, visit SantaClaritaTransit.com.

Canyon Country Park Opens First Inclusive Playground

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 18, 2020

There were hundreds of visitors at Canyon Country Park last month to see the grand opening of the Inclusive Play Area – including Canyon Country Magazine.

Residents and their kids gathered to do more than just watch Santa Clarita City Council members cut a ribbon. Children were released onto the grounds to try out the new toys and enjoy a drum station hosted by REMO. Visitors ate Jersey Mike’s sandwiches and drank Starbucks coffee at the event while visiting with representatives from Special Olympics and volunteers at the Family Resource Fair.

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth welcomed those in attendance and introduced the event’s special guest performers – students from the City of Santa Clarita’s Primetime Preschool program, which is also based in the park. The students were able to see the construction of the Inclusive Play Area from start to finish and rehearsed songs that they could sing to their parents and other guests at the grand opening celebration.

Following a brief speaking program, attendees of all ages and abilities watched the ribbon get cut before being the first to explore the variety of elements in the expansive western-themed space. The Inclusive Play Area includes a number of features suggested by residents through a public input process, including a dual-track inclusive zipline, sensory-friendly elements, accessible connections to existing facilities and large shade structures to protect visitors from the elements in the summer months.

“There was a merry-go-round with seats instead of bars on it,” said Barbara Ward, a 58-year resident of Canyon Country. “There were so many mazes where the kids could climb through and go down a number of slides.”

Ward brought her great grandson to the opening at the park and noticed which toys attracted him most, including musical instruments built into the site.

“I’ve never seen xylophones and drums at a park before,” she said, adding details to her overall reaction. “The padding was really soft under your feet. And there were plenty of benches all around for parents, which was nice.”

For more information about the Inclusive Play Area at Canyon Country Park, contact project manager Elena Galvez at egalvez@santa-clarita.com.

KB Homes at Vista Canyon Bluma and Auburn

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2020

Six model homes are now open at the Vista Canyon development. KB Homes has two classifications – “Bluma” and “Auburn” – available for purchase. They are all new, two-story detached condominiums.

A walkable community with 4 miles of pedestrian and bike paths, residents will have close proximity to shopping and dining at Vista Canyon’s Town Square. The development is close to award-winning schools and adjacent to a bus transit center, which just broke ground, and the future Metrolink station aimed at commuter-friendly travel.

The builders are describing the community as being near the edge of Angeles National Forest with miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Sand Canyon Country Club golf course is just a few miles from the development, which will include a neighborhood tennis court and fitness center.

All of the condominiums in both Bluma and Auburn have 2-car garages and upstairs laundry facilities.

The Bluma at Vista Canyon community of condos are priced from $521,490 – $545,990 and the front doors of the three model homes are facing the front of the Auburn models. The three plans have the following totals, measured in square feet: 1401, 1579 and 1690.

The larger homes in the development, Auburn at Vista Canyon are priced from $566,490 – $612,990. The three plans have the following totals, measured in square feet: 1855, 2201 and 2312.

For more information, visit https://www.kbhome.com/new-homes-los-angeles-and-ventura/bluma-at-vista-canyon.

Scott Parker – Where Mechanics Meets Artistry

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 29, 2020

As if to mirror the latest exhibit at the Santa Clarita Artists Association gallery entitled “Time to Reflect,” Scott Parker talks about his own journey as an artist, looking back to the beginning and forward to his current projects. The Canyon Country resident has a wide range of talent from the back-to-basics simplicity of pencil sketching to modern forms such as computer graphic design. The artist continues to work in multiple mediums.
“It opens up more opportunities for me,” Parker said. “My favorite is a toss-up between photography and colored or black and white pencil. At least with those mediums I have more control over color and detail.”
To describe his interest in fine art alongside his work in website design, Parker builds on the familiar theory that humans have two sides of the brain with somewhat opposite strengths. “I’ve been able to utilize both, so to speak,” he said. “It’s been a blessing and a curse.”
He began his artistic work in elementary school. “It started with just doing pencil drawings and stuff like that,” he said. “I was in the fourth or fifth grade when I first started noticing the interest.”
Naturally mechanically-inclined, Parker’s understanding of computer systems began when he received his older brother’s hand-me-down machines. “Figuring them out on my own, I gained an interest in them,” he said. “Then I went to school to study graphic design and web design.”
He’s expanded on both ends of the spectrum – using computers to make prints of his drawings and accessing photo editing programs. He grew in his artistry by dabbling in watercolor, oil and acrylic paints. “I was kind of comfortable, but I didn’t have that control,” he said, reiterating his preference for sketching. “I also like the fact that with pencils it can be portable, unlike paint.”
Some of Parker’s favorite content for his artwork includes science fiction and fantasy. “My parents took me to ‘Star Wars’ and that opened the floodgates of my subject matter,” he said.
When you visit his website – Artworks & Abstracts – there’s a gallery with some of his images of comic book characters. One day Parker had the good fortune of meeting an icon who was one of his professional inspirations. For six years Parker was a contracted artist through a restaurant named Café Tu Tu Tango located at Universal City Walk, where he would sell his art. He saw Marvel Comics co-creator/writer/producer Stan Lee who was filming for the Sci-Fi Channel at Universal Studios. Parker approached the animation industry legend and asked him to sign one of his Spider-Man paintings and Lee agreed.
Where photography is concerned, Parker likes to capture shots of wildlife, scenery, landscapes and antiques. Some of his favorites are shoots in deserted towns where he can get images of abandoned cars and buildings. “I love the antiques – the wagons for the wood grain and the detail you can pull out of it,” he said.
Despite his success, Parker doesn’t have a lot of sophisticated equipment. “I manage to get by with what little I have,” he explained. “I used to use a little point-and-shoot digital camera. Then one of my brothers went to a benefit fundraiser and put money in a raffle for a camera and I realized what I could do with it. It went from there.”
Born and raised in the Santa Clarita area since 1977 when his family moved here, Parker went to College of the Canyons where he began studying art and computer science. When his father contracted cancer, the artist paused to focus his attention on family.
He later returned to school in web design, but most of his skills are self-taught through books, YouTube and other internet sites.
Parker has been an active member of the Santa Clarita Artists Association since 2012. He served on the board and has worked in the gallery in addition to doing graphic design on the organization’s website.
The SCAA Gallery’s new exhibit features the work of many local artists including Parker’s photo, “Walking in My Shoes.” The picture was a gift for his brother-in-law.
“Scott Parker is an excellent realistic artist,” said SCAA publicity Chair Olga Kaczmar regarding his use of colored pencil. “He does a very good job photographing and illustrating wildlife … very creative. As a member of Santa Clarita Artists Association, he put in many, many volunteer hours to get the gallery running smoothly. We are really grateful to him.”
The Artists Association is one of the reasons Parker likes living in the Santa Clarita Valley. “I like it for the community,” he said. “I know every city has their issues but I like it better than other areas where I’ve lived. It’s close to family and I have a lot of friends here from the group.”
For more about Scott Parker visit ArtworksandAbstracts.net.

Sierra Pelona Wine Festival VIP Tickets

| Canyon Country Magazine, Entertainment | January 28, 2020

If you haven’t attended the Sierra Pelona Wine Festival in the last seven years, you wouldn’t know about the engaging crowds and enterprising vendors who participate. This year the 8th annual festival will celebrate local vintners at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce on Saturday, April 4, 2020 from 1-6 p.m.

There are various tickets available and prices go up when purchased after March 31, 2020. You can gain entrance at 12 noon if you purchase a VIP Pre-Pay ticket. These ticketholders also have access to an exclusive area with artisanal food and wines. The VIP tickets cost $90 per person ($100 if purchased between March 1-March 31 and $110 if purchased between April 1-4). Because there are only 100 available, they typically sell out in advance.

A pre-paid general admission ticket to the Sierra Pelona Festival costs $55 per person ($65 from March 1-March 31 and $75 thereafter) or you can buy a group ticket package for $500.

There are nearly 1,000 attendees at the festival each year and event proceeds benefit Zonta Club of Santa Clarita. The festival is held both to raise money for charity and to bring national and regional attention to the wine and culinary offerings of Santa Clarita, adjacent communities and the Sierra Pelona Valley.

The wine festival features local wine makers from the Santa Clarita Valley to the Antelope Valley offering tastings of their best wines, plus cider, craft breweries and spirits.  There will also be gourmet food and specialty items sampling, handmade crafts from local artisans, live music, a live auction and more.

Attendees will receive:
Specialty event glass
Event plate
Specialty gift bag
Wine and beverage sampling
Free parking

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association is an organization that brings together the talents and resources of its members, partners and community to promote the production and appreciation of fine food and wines grown or produced within the Sierra Pelona Valley AVA and surrounding areas. Nestled in the Sierra Pelona Mountains of Southern California, just 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, the Sierra Pelona Valley’s untouched natural beauty provides the perfect environment for burgeoning vineyards, boutique wineries and outdoor enthusiasts.

Reyes Winery is located at 10262 Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce.
For tickets, visit SierraPelonaVintners.com. For information on how to make the most of your time in Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Country, join the Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ReyesWinery.

Wedding Ways

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 22, 2020

People get married every month of the year, but there are special seasons when weekends are meant for weddings and local families come together for cakes, flowers and vows. Unless you’re someone who likes the drama of winter weddings, chances are that if you’re currently engaged, you’ll be walking the aisle several months from now.

When and Where

According to a study conducted by bridal website The Knot, 78 percent of weddings in the United States take place between May and October. Nationwide, the most popular months are June, September and October.

Spring and summer are the most popular seasons for weddings at the Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills. The hilltop venue hosts intimate parties of 50 individuals up to 500 guests, with indoor and outdoor accommodations for ceremonies and receptions.

The Odyssey has both rooms and private patios available, and wedding events typically include all food, beverage, staffing, table/place settings, linens and a dance floor. Staff members help wedding planners attain outside vendors for floral, décor, music, cake, photo booths and other amenities.

The garden at Le Chene Restaurant in Agua Dulce can accommodate up to 300 guests and the banquet room can host up to 100 people in attendance. Le Chene is a popular site for Angelenos to hold many special occasions – it’s not just limited to weddings. It is frequently chosen by residents for birthdays, anniversaries, business functions, holiday parties, celebration of life ceremonies, etc.

Weddings at Le Chene are particularly popular because brides are attracted to the lush greenery of the gardens to hold the ceremony and the banquet room, which comes with its own bar and dance floor, for receptions. Many of the indoor weddings at Le Chene include DJs with music for dancing on the 12-foot by 12-foot dance floor.

Reyes winery

Here in Southern California, outdoor weddings are always in style. The most popular season for weddings at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce is March through July, though September is a great target month for local beauty. As an event venue, the winery has a huge range of options in terms of size. The average wedding at the site hosts about 150 guests, though Reyes can accommodate from 12 to 350 people.

What

As far as style goes, the surroundings, including rows and rows of grapevines at the base of the Sierra Pelona Mountains, offers the backdrop most of their clients desire. One of the weddings at Reyes Winery included a ride down the aisle on horseback.

Bloom Ranch

Bloom Ranch

Bloom Ranch in Acton is a new local venue hosting the largest number of weddings in the spring and summer months, particularly April through July.

“The fruit trees are in full bloom in April, and full/green for summer months,” said Heather Puett, who is on the Bloom Ranch management team with owners Chris and Barbara Ziegler. “We do not host weddings August through early October, due to peach season.”

As resident event manager, Puett handles bookings and coordination. Her background in wedding coordination gives her an understanding of what couples need, and her services are available for clients of Bloom Ranch if they choose. So far, clients of the new event venue have chosen a range of styles from “simple and quaint, country inspired to rustic elegant,” she said. “There have been hay bales and sunflowers, while another featured chandeliers, linens and candles. I would best describe our venue as rustic elegance. The diverse landscape and backdrop options lend themselves to many different styles and personalities.”

Bloom Ranch features peach/pear orchards, lilac fields, and two historic homes, complete with a rustic barn and hand-cut stonework. Clients have the freedom to choose the caterer of their choice, as the event site does not provide in-house catering.

Many local caterers and wedding venues such as the Odyssey offer customizable menus. The restaurant offers all-inclusive packages with signature cocktails as well.

One of the latest trends, said Beth Heiserman of Reyes Winery, is the request for vegetarian and vegan fare. Wedding planners can use the onsite catering service or hire an outside firm.

Wear

Like the changing tide of runway couture, wedding fashion is never stagnant. Generations of brides may hold fast to a particular sleeve or fabric for a time, but there’s always another style waiting in the wings. According to a review of the 2020 Bridal Fashion Week collections, wedding website The Knot says that rather than sleek and sexy, body-hugging styles, the current rage includes huge, exaggerated sleeves on ball gowns. For brides, tiered skirts are top trends, ruffles are romantic and fullness is fashion forward.

Bridesmaids are in spring pastels and even floral print dresses. For the wedding as a whole, The Knot says that color is coming. Guests can expect to see “neo mint,” “not quite pink” an earthy, rich hue of yellow and faded denim.

For men, there’s much more than black in the palette.

“Blues and charcoal grays are going to be big this spring and summer,” said Jeannie Johnson, manager/buyer at J. David’s Custom Clothiers in Valencia. “The blue looks so good in pictures – when it’s clear outside it looks fantastic.”

If you’ve been to a wedding in the last two decades you’ve probably noticed a shift from formal tuxedos to sensible suits.

“The reason why, I think … is they’re going to have more occasions to wear that suit,” Johnson said. “Some are very young and they’re just out of college and are going to go on job interviews.”

J. David’s, which was opened by David Gunther in 1983, provides menswear for rent or sale, meeting needs that far exceed wedding wear.

“A lot of guys for the awards shows that are coming up are going to be in a solid black tuxedo, going a little more classic. And a lot of people are using burgundies with black lapels for the Oscars and Golden Globes,” said Johnson, who also has the style of her prom customers pegged. “It’s the younger group that’s going to go more wild. I’ve got a white tuxedo right now with a small, black pinstripe on the outside of the lapel and a lot of guys are going to do that.”

Today’s prom customer is tomorrow’s bridal party member and there’s an industry built around predicting their style. Some of Santa Clarita Valley’s businesses are paying attention … or they should be.

Many Become #SaugusStrong

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 15, 2019

There was a time when we were all Saugus. And recently, after the November 14 shooting on the Saugus High School campus, we all stood under that umbrella once again.

Golden Valley High School held a charity basketball game to benefit the Saugus community on the day before the students returned to school Dec. 2. Also, Golden Valley’s website recognized Garth Sanders of Minuteman Press, a GVHS parent, for his support for the #SaugusStrong efforts. He donated banners to Golden Valley so students could express their support. Banners were sent across town to Saugus to be displayed for encouragement when the campus reopened.

Canyon High School graduates are also showing their support. Amanda and Megan Gardner joined their mother, Karen, in putting their talents to work. Assisted by their aunt, Julie Chebbi from Westchester, and Sulphur Springs teacher Jenna Baker, the group created hundreds of handmade Saugus Strong key chains and bracelets.

When Karen Gardner posted on Facebook that people could purchase them to support Saugus High families and the school’s wellness center, Canyon High School staff members bought dozens of them. Karen distributed them to the staff at Saugus High School for free.

You can purchase them for $10 each; visit the Saugus Strong Facebook page and put “key” in the search bar to pull up the post.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has submitted a grant request to the City of Santa Clarita in the amount of $5,000 in hopes they will receive a Community Services and Arts Grant to bring several educational programs to schools in this valley, says Kim A. Bunnell, president of NAMI San Fernando Valley. The nonprofit organization has such programs as Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Prevention.

NAMI California posted the following message on the nonprofit’s website: “We are deeply saddened to hear about news of a school shooting in Santa Clarita. Whenever we hear about another tragedy involving gun violence, we grieve along with our fellow citizens and community members impacted by it.”
One of the group’s strongest concerns is the stigma that keeps people from getting the psychological help they need. They have an article on their website entitled “The Truth about Gun Violence” which explains that according to studies at such universities as Johns Hopkins and UCLA, mental illness contributes to only about 4 percent of all violence.

It says, “Every time we experience a tragedy involving guns, people with mental illness are drawn into the conversation. The truth is that the vast majority of violence is not perpetrated by people with mental illness. Statements to the contrary only serve to perpetuate stigma and distract from the real issues.
“Most people with mental health conditions will never become violent, and mental illness does not cause most gun violence. … We need to have an honest and productive national conversation about all the factors that play into this type of violence and what we can do to prevent these tragedies. Only then can we find meaningful solutions to protecting our children and communities.”
The good news is that local individuals are mobilized in every related facet of the problem, from law enforcement to therapies for those dealing with grief. Many would say the support has looked a lot like #SantaClaritaStrong.

Gift From Bethlehem – Jam for Jesus

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 13, 2019

Bethlehem SCV in Canyon Country holds an annual concert that is nothing short of a valuable gift to the community. There are many (as evidenced by its typically standing-room-only attendance) who rush as enthusiastically for a seat at Jam for Jesus as they raced to the tree on Christmas morning as a child.

And with good reason! It’s a free three-hour music experience featuring men and women who perform for a living, but volunteer their abilities for the concert.

There are dozens of A-list musicians who perform at the concert – some who tour with the likes of Phil Collins, Earth, Wind & Fire, Ringo, and Frankie Valli. It’s spearheaded by Robby Robinson, who pulls together about 30 of his friends – professional musicians like himself – to bring the show to the public.

Robinson was recognized by the City of Santa Clarita Arts Commission in March (see sidebar – at the end of this article).

“The talent level is just off the charts, but more than the talent level is the heart that these musicians have, who are giving their talent – significant talent, I might add – to the Lord,” Robinson said. “You walk into this church and what you get is something you’d expect to see in Radio City Music Hall.”

This year, the 28th Annual Jam for Jesus will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 at 7 p.m. at Bethlehem SCV.

Front-and-center is Robinson on keyboard, who created the annual event when he was the minister of music at the church in the 1990s, and his brother, Rex Robinson, on bass. Though Rex, an Agua Dulce resident, has retired from touring, both men were in Frankie Valli’s band, and Robby has been Valli’s music director for more than 40 years.

Some of the horns, guitarists, vocalists, etc. are locals who are now professionals, including Andrea Hammond, Roland and Tristan Garcia and Sara Niemietz, Tony Galla and Dr. Michael Millar. Jam for Jesus performers also include musicians who play in the “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” bands.

The songs in the concert are sacred, Robby said, including a number of Christmas songs. But the group tackles many different styles, from classical to jazz/pop. Far from a rigid performance, it’s what Robby calls “somewhat loose,” where there’s only one rehearsal and a basic script, which he writes in advance.

Like a symphony, these friends of Robby create a blend that fills the rafters, using little musical construction but still following a list of songs and basic arrangements.

“It’s like flying with no net,” Robby said. “It’s a very intimate kind of concert, not formal – you feel like you’re backstage. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there.”

One professional who’s “been there” from the beginning is percussionist Richie Garcia. He’s recorded on soundtracks for such films as “The Italian Job” and “Emperor’s New Groove” and toured with Sting, Diana Ross, Brooks and Dunn and many others. His sons, Roland and Tristan, also perform professionally and have been a part of Jam for Jesus since their grade school days.

“It’s an honor to share the stage with my family and some of the most accomplished musicians in Los Angeles year after year,” said Tristan Garcia in an interview with Canyon Country Magazine last year. “They come together for a time of giving, share their talents and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.”

If you attend Bethlehem SCV on a Sunday morning, it’s possible to hear several of the same musicians. You’re more likely to see Rex Robinson in the worship band than Robby, who is now a minister of music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Simi Valley, where he lives. But his years of leadership give him the ability to speak for many of his musician friends.

“I feel so blessed to do what I do,” Robby said. “And that’s the way these guys feel.”

Bethlehem SCV is located at 27265 Luther Drive in Canyon Country. For more information, call 661-252-0622 or visit BethlehemSCV.com.

 

When the City of Santa Clarita Arts Commission recognized Robby Robinson last spring, he responded with this Facebook post:
This is an event that is so much bigger than me, I would be remiss to NOT publicly acknowledge a number of people, so sincere THANK YOU to…
My talented bass-player brother REX ROBINSON, has been there playing for all 27 years, even playing 1 year with 103-degree fever.
My friend (for 48 years) who is like a brother, extraordinary percussionist RICHIE GAJATE GARCIA has been there ALMOST all 27 years, along with his sons ROLAND & TRISTAN who have grown up playing at this event.
Literally hundreds of A-list musicians and singers who have graciously given of their precious time and extreme talents to give back! The list is like a who’s-who of the music industry … you know who you are … THANKS!
This tribute goes not just to the musicians on stage, but also to all the behind-the-scenes people, technical people, production people, and church staff … it couldn’t happen without you!
Brilliant bass trombonist DR MICHAEL MILLAR who spearheaded last night along with Arts & Events Manager PHIL LANTIS. Thanks as well to the whole SC Arts Commission … the artistic community in Santa Clarita is in great hands!
http://santaclaritaarts.com
PASTOR JOHN KOCZMAN and BETHLEHEM SCV CHURCH for so graciously hosting J4J for so many years.
http://www.bethlehemscv.com
My church home of TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH-SIMI VALLEY who hosted the early years. I’m proud to serve TLC as Minister of Music.
http://trinitylutheranchurchsimi.com
My wife CARLA who puts up with my madness every December (as well as the other 11 months each year!)
To all the wonderful friends who came out last night to show their support…not one wisecrack was heard (out loud).
So … last night I find myself in a government city hall … the wonderful city of Santa Clarita, Calif., being honored for a series of concerts proclaiming the Savior’s Birth … only in America!!
Of course, I have to acknowledge the Reason for the Season, the reason for life, breath and everything I do … JESUS.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Drew Wolitarsky – Renaissance Man

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 13, 2019

The Canadian press has called him “the adventurer and thinker” who writes poetry, plays guitar and sings. It doesn’t sound like Canyon Country football star Drew Wolitarsky who went on to play college ball and now plays in the Canadian Football League. But it is.

Suffice it to say, what’s most interesting about Drew is what he does in the off-season … like traveling to Europe, learning Italian and working on a novel.

Having known Drew Wolitarsky since his elementary school days, I can tell you he was always different than he appeared. A gifted athlete, most people would assume he spent all of his free time watching sports, conditioning for sports and playing sports.

But that’s an incomplete, short-story version of Drew that reduces his essence to the skills you see. He is, rather, an unfolding, multiple volume series – the kind with too much depth to be binge-watched.

The summary is this: He was an award-winning athlete at Canyon High School, mostly known for his speed in track and record-breaking catches as a wide receiver on the Cowboys football team. He went to the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship and then was drafted by the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he has been catching passes for three years.

His biggest moment in sports occurred last month when he aided the Bombers in winning the Grey Cup, which is Canada’s version of the Super Bowl. And even in a moment that gridiron greats would compare to winning an Oscar, his “speech” tells you he’s so much more than an athlete. It’s the internal game that intrigues Drew the most.

“Those guys you played with so long, you bonded with them and did this incredible thing,” he said. “It’s less about the trophy and more about the guys you’re with. The guys you win it with become legendary in your mind.”

He never doubted they could win the Grey Cup, but it was far from a sure thing. This year’s Blue Bombers were not always looking like frontrunners. They went into the championship with seven losses.

“It was cool how it unfolded,” Drew told me. “We were up and down, up and down, we had injuries – everybody had injuries in the CFL. It was this rugged battle between teams.”

Drew and his Bombers pulled together like a ballet, ending with a performance that led to a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“We just stuck together,” he explained. “It was more of a story about when it seems like things are falling down around you, you still have to face those guys that come into the room.”

The experience brings a lot of things to mind for Drew. “When you’re on the field and you know the situation ahead and the game is blowing up in the media and with the fans, it’s actually comforting to know this is just a job,” he said. “I’ve learned that it’s a long season and it’s a long grind. You’re going to feel things … but you take it a day at a time.”

Though the camaraderie is similar, it’s not like college ball.

“It’s such a different dynamic – in college you have teammates you know will return,” he explained. “Everything’s changing. Coaches will change and players will change.”

As for coaches, the CFL has been good to Drew, in part because Coach Mike O’Shea was a player himself.

“He knows how to coach because of that. It’s huge for someone in any profession,” Drew said. “He gives us such respect. A lot of players say it doesn’t get better than O’Shea.”
The mood is low-key for such a high-stakes game. “We’re not stressing,” Drew said. “So we didn’t get a first down … screaming and getting all worked up is not how you win games.”

A lot has changed for the 24-year-old since his days at Canyon.

“High school is fun, there’s no pressure, no stress, there’s no money involved,” he explained. “I went out there knowing I’d have a great game. When I went to college … it’s more of a business, there’s money involved, there are fans across the nation. The possibility of failure is what you’re dealing with – how can I not think about this while I play?”

Local football fans can see the arc in Drew’s athletic range, but he’s developed internally just as much.

“It’s like anything – you grow up in your small town and you go out in this world and nobody knows you,” he said. “All you have is your work ethic and your reputation. You can’t feel like ‘I’m entitled to this.’”

The creative side of Drew buffers the stresses of football and the need for precision. He plays music at various venues when the mood strikes him, plus He recently finished three songs on an electronic album and even formed a band with some former teammates in Minnesota.

“I need that,” he said. “It keeps you grounded.”

Early in the season, Drew actually combined two of his talents when he entertained fans after catching a touchdown pass, using the ball to play air guitar.

A fellow writer, Drew has an article on the Bombers website that’s personal and intimate about winning the Grey Cup. He compares the ritual of drinking from the Cup to satisfying the thirst of fans, like the city of Winnipeg which held a victory parade for the Bombers.

“I love to share what’s on my mind, I love to share art, I love being connected to people,” he said. “That’s why I want to travel. I care about humans in general.”

It comes full circle when he explains the aspects of his CFL experience that resonate with him most.

“There’s something very rewarding about having people depending on you for something, not in a way demanding of you, but everybody has their part and they’re doing it,” he described. “It can also be very hard, because when you don’t succeed you feel like you’re letting people down.”

Wolitarsky family celebrates at the Grey Cup (L-R): parents Audrey and John, Drew and his brother Austin

There’s no letting down one team – his family. His parents, John and Audrey, along with other family members (they even let me come along once) travel to Canada as much as possible for games. One of Drew’s favorite moments occurred after the stunning win that clinched the Bombers’ spot in the Grey Cup championship. He looked to the stands and saw his father beaming back, supportive and proud

“All of a sudden I had a feeling somebody was looking … you know how you can just feel the energy?” Drew asked. “I’m not kidding, it was a child’s face looking at his favorite player, unsure of what to say. It was, ‘I’m your biggest fan.’”

Though he’s the son in that scenario, Drew shifts to a parent’s perspective when creating a metaphor about winning the big one.

“It’s like making a baby with 45 guys,” he said. “You remember that moment it’s being delivered. It’s beautiful.”

New Business – Cruzin’ Thru Comics

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 9, 2019

If your favorite fictional characters wear capes, you may have a new hangout in Canyon Country.

Cruzin’ Thru Comics just opened on Sierra Highway and has a cozy location where you can immerse yourself in stories about superheroes and other animated books and collectibles.

“Our main focus is comic books, but we sell graphic novels, hard covers, toys, statues, posters and superhero artwork,” said Johnny Cruz, who owns the store with his wife, Gloria.

The store’s most popular items involve Marvel characters Spiderman, Wolverine, Carnage and Venom, but DC Comics isn’t too far behind with Batman and Joker, especially after the recent “Joker” movie.

A technician with AT&T for 20 years, Johnny Cruz got interested in comics as a hobby, which grew to become a side business.

“We mostly have been doing conventions and sales online,” he said. “I felt the need to open the store because I have so much inventory.”

Johnny and Gloria have attended and worked at conventions outside the SCV such as the San Diego and Long Beach Comic Con trade shows. Locally, they are a part of Valley Comic Con in Valencia this month and the Santa Clarita Toy and Comic Expo at College of the Canyons on March 8, 2020.
The couple chose to open the business in Canyon Country because the only local comic stores are in Newhall and Saugus.

“It’s a tough business because everything’s online, but there are benefits to a brick-and-mortar store,” Johnny said. “We’re open for local buyers and customers that want to come in and actually look at the items they’re buying. It’s a permanent place for people to go.”

Cruzin’ Thru Comics already has some “regulars.” Some of their clients bring in merchandise to sell.
“I do a lot of wholesaling too – a lot of my customers are dealers as well,” said Johnny, who’s been selling on ebay for more than a decade. “It’s very reasonably priced. And we have it set up really nice. There’s a TV monitor to play movies. There’s no gaming at the moment, but it’s a very nice place to buy comics. People love it.”

The store and its layout will continue to evolve. For instance, the couple plans to install a little two-seat sofa in the front of the store.

“It’s been a bit hectic, a lot of work setting it up, but everything went fairly smooth so far – fixtures and signage,” he said.

The main collectors or buyers of comics are between the age of 20 and 30, Johnny said. But their customers are wide-ranging in age. He has found that people who collect comics are young kids up to seniors in their 70s.

Both Johnny and Gloria grew up in Santa Clarita and attended Saugus High School. They and their sons now live in Palmdale.

Stay tuned for a grand opening celebration later this month. “We’ll possibly have some free books, maybe some raffles, free food and drinks,” he said. “And I might have an artist come by to do sketches.”

Cruzin’ Thru Comics is located at 17812 Sierra Hwy, Unit D in Canyon Country. Call 661-210-7746, email Cruzinthrucomics@yahoo.com or visit Facebook.com/Cruzinthrucomics.

High Winds and Tick Fire

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 8, 2019

Fall traditions like Halloween and Thanksgiving are great, but Canyon Country residents aren’t fond of the annual wind-powered wildfires that seem to show up with the regularity of a holiday.

When the Tick Fire broke out on Thursday, October 24, despite intentional power outages by Southern California Edison, it affected homes in Stone Crest and Shadow Pines communities. By Friday morning the fire had scorched more than 4,000 acres and consumed homes, eventually destroying 29 structures, most of which were residences. There were about 70 structures damaged or destroyed in the fire, mostly residential.

photo by Austin Dave

photo by Austin Dave

photo by Austin Dave

photo by Austin Dave

Hundreds of firefighters fought the Tick Fire while thousands of residents evacuated from multiple areas of Canyon Country. Between Thursday night and Friday morning the fire jumped the 14 freeway, which sent many residents of Sand Canyon packing.

Southern California has been under an extreme red flag warning by the National Weather Service due to 40-70 mph winds. Edison has been responding by cutting power as a preventative measure; however, some residents complain that it cuts off communication from important emergency information. For Sand Canyon, in particular, it’s a challenge because of limited phone reception in the area.

After midnight on Friday morning, October 25, Canyon Country resident Michelle Sandoval received word that her neighborhood of North Oaks had to evacuate.

“The sheriffs came up and down the streets, weaving and flashing lights, using a megaphone, telling residents we had to leave, that it was mandatory,” she explained. “That’s when we realized it was more serious than we thought. We saw a lot of neighbors leaving.”

Luckily, she was prepared. “We had packed earlier,” she said. “We kept checking a website where they had a map of the city and the areas that were red were under mandatory evacuation, including our neighborhood.”

She never received a text from authorities until after they left the house. Sandoval headed to her uncle’s house in Saugus, but it was the middle of the night and he didn’t answer his phone.

“I had my dogs, but I drove to the COC evacuation center to check it out anyway,” she said, assuming that animals were not allowed at the site. “There were a lot of people there, outside, walking their dogs.”

Later that morning they let residents from many neighborhoods return to their homes, including Sandoval, and Sand Canyon was repopulating by Friday afternoon. Evacuations were lifted in the Shadow Pines/Stone Crest areas at various time frames.

As local residents brace for continued phases of dry conditions and high winds, making the area ripe for wildfires, there are numerous safety concerns. Ironically, the power outage creates some of the issues brought up by people in fire areas. In addition to improving communication lost by the lack of power there are other hazards.
When residents are home – when evacuation orders are lifted – total darkness can prove problematic. One Shadow Pines resident noted that streetlights and stoplights weren’t operational in the days following the Tick Fire. In total darkness, some drivers ran through intersections without stopping and cars parked on the sides of the street could easily be hit – even by fire trucks.

Fire on Ball Mountain

Krissy Ball of Canyon Country was shopping in Saugus on Thursday, October 24 when her son, Russell, sent her a picture showing a plume of smoke he could see from their two homes atop a hill on Sierra Highway. It looked pretty far away, but because of the high winds she decided to go home, where Russell and her husband, Chris, were monitoring the situation.

“Right away I could hear the concern in Chris’ voice and he started directing me – and Russell and Jose, who works with us – to get everything away from the house that’s flammable,” she said. “Then I thought, okay, someone has to go into the house and find stuff to save … safes, our family heirlooms, mementos, pictures.”

She spent about a half hour loading the cars while they moved items away from the house, most notably, a large pile of firewood.

“I thought I still had some time to get stuff out of the house, but suddenly embers jumped across and behind our two water tanks – totally opposite of where the fire was – bam!” Ball said. “The fire was heading our way from the north, coming toward our house. Now we had flames on the opposite side of our house. And then it started blowing downhill toward Mint Canyon, toward our other house.”

Chris Ball used a garden hose, creating a fire deterrent to protect their homes on “Ball Mountain,” which are structures that most people don’t see from the road below.

“I went up and down, up and down, to see if our other house was okay, and I went to the street to see if there were fire trucks,” Krissy said. “They didn’t know we were up here. I’m flagging them down, flailing my arms like a crazy woman. There was a firefighter in a regular truck, sitting on the phone. I knocked on the window and said, ‘Why isn’t anyone coming up the hill?’”

Finally, a truck pulled up to the Ball’s driveway. “I was down on the street by the lower house and I didn’t know the status of our upper house, I didn’t know how Chris was,” Krissy said. “They were going to stop at the lower house and I directed them, ‘Keep going, keep going,’ and they said, ‘Is there a house up there?’”

Chris Ball’s efforts and the arrival of firefighters saved the family’s homes. Chris had built them, using flame retardant siding and other safeguards, but he learned the hard way about the need for power.

“One of our houses has battery backup, so the fire sprinkler system was fully operational, but the other house didn’t have backup,” he explained. “We were required to have a sprinkler system, but when Edison turns the power off, we don’t have power to energize the solar panels. … You’ve got to have the batteries to back it up.”

Chris noted the cooperation between fire departments, the way they help each other. The crew that stood on their hill were firefighters from Fountain Valley in Orange County – and they had “never had their engine off the pavement,” Chris said.

In fact, one of the takeaways from the experience is the connections that take place. Krissy and Russell ran through smoke to save his cats, but also helped a neighbor search for her dog. And at the worst moments of the fire Krissy was comforted by a perfect stranger a few streets away.

Since the fire Krissy’s become Facebook friends with neighbors she never knew, she said, and their acquaintance is growing: “Now we’re going to have breakfast and discuss our fire stories.”

Attention: Tick Fire Victims
Simply Discount Furniture is reaching out to Tick Fire victims who are struggling financially. Local residents who cannot afford to replace some of their furniture necessities damaged by the fire can contact the store owners, who are offering to replace them free of charge. If you are in that situation, call Trisha Garrison 661-799-3401.

You Can Help
Canyon Church, a campus of Real Life Church in Valencia, posted some local needs and resources on Facebook to reach out to Tick Fire victims.
You can support those in need through some of the GoFundMe pages listed below.. There are requests for such necessities as toiletries, as well as a call to give gift cards. All families receiving gift cards are identified and vetted by school counselors and social workers in the area, the post says.
GoFundMe pages include one for a teacher with L.A. Unified School District who lost her home and all of her belongings in the fire. Another page is raising money to help a Canyon Country animal advocate who had to let her animals run free while she watched her home being destroyed by flames. A third GoFundMe page includes a family near Pinetree Community School who lost everything.

See the Real Life/Canyon Church Facebook page for links to these GoFundMe pages.
You can donate gift cards by taking them to Real Life Church on a Sunday or drop them off at the front office of Canyon High School, which is located at 19300 Nadal St. in Canyon Country.
The types of gift cards suggested are:
Walmart
Target
Sam’s Club
Ralphs
Vons
Restaurants
Also, Canyon Springs School’s Resource Center is collecting toiletry items and clothes for 4- and 5-year-olds. Those can be dropped off at Canyon Springs School or through Canyon Church/Real Life Church.
Canyon Springs is located at 19059 Vicci St. in Canyon Country. Real Life Church is located at 23841 Newhall Ranch Rd. in Canyon Country. For more information, see the Canyon Church Facebook page.

The Cox Family’s 100-Year Legacy

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | October 25, 2019

by Martha Michael

When Sand Canyon lost longtime resident Paula Cox, who died on July 31, 2019, there was a sadness felt by many members of the community, but the loss had an even wider impact. The history held by the Cox family serves as a marker in time, specifically to the earliest days of Canyon Country’s existence.

Paula Palmer Cox was the widow of Clement Cox, who died in 2014. The couple met in Sand Canyon as youngsters, and four generations of the Cox family have lived on the same property going back to the early 20th century.

Clem, as he was known, was the son of Leona and Clement Dunbar Cox, who moved onto 40 acres in Sand Canyon when the area was called “Saugus” in 1923. Leona Cox Community School in Canyon Country honors the name of Clem’s mother, who was widowed in 1930 at the start of The Depression and stayed in Sand Canyon to raise her three sons. The Cox family has lived on the same property for nearly 100 years.

Leona worked to improve the education her sons received at Sulphur Springs School, even hauling water and building fires to heat the room. She acted as librarian, secretary, custodian … and was praised for being an advocate for education in general.

Paula Palmer and her parents lived in Hollywood, but owned property adjacent to the Cox family’s lot in Canyon Country (at the time, called Saugus), where they would visit on weekends to ride horses. In 1944, Paul and Edith Palmer would make Canyon Country their home.
At the age of 13, Paula met her 15-year-old neighbor on the same piece of property where the couple would later establish their home as husband and wife.

Clem completed school at Sulphur Springs Community School and attended San Fernando High School, followed by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in agriculture. Only time away at college and serving in the South Pacific during WWII took Clem away from his Sand Canyon home. Upon returning, he became a teacher of floriculture at Van Nuys Junior High School in Sylmar, where he also taught math and agriculture.

Paula Palmer went to Hollywood High School and University of Southern California, the same college where their daughter, Cathy Kraeger, would later choose to attend.

On their property in Canyon Country the Cox family created a chicken ranch. Clem had a group of poultry ranchers that went by the moniker “The Dirty Dozen” and they met regularly to advise each other about their respective challenges. Clem’s ranch grew to include 30,000 chickens and more than half of those were laying hens.

Handy and mechanically inclined, Clem helped build a swimming pool on his Sand Canyon property in 1957. “I had the tractor and dug the hole,” he told Canyon Country Magazine in 2008. “I put the steel in and hired a gunite man to come in. Then I bricked it.”

Cathy Cox married Steve Kraeger and they raised their children on the large property as well. Before retiring, Cathy taught at Canyon High School, serving as head of the Spanish Department. Their children, Scott and Katie, were the fourth generation to reside on the family’s property.

In the late 1990s, Clem Cox opted to sell most of his acreage in Sand Canyon to Ted Robinson, a golf course owner and architect, who had been a part of more than 160 projects around the world. It was a joint venture between Ted and his son, Ted Robinson Jr., and opened in 2000. It is now called Sand Canyon Country Club.

Both Clem and Paula lived long lives and died the way they lived – at home, on the land where they met, surrounded by their loved ones.

“She had 92 very good years and turned 93 on June 26,” Cathy Cox Kraeger said. “We certainly miss her, as she was very much present in our everyday lives. It just takes time.”

Paula used to tell her grandchildren, “I live in the house that gives me hugs.” Canyon Country community members are grateful she chose to share those hugs with the rest of us. And now it’s time to pass them on.

Update from the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Group

| Canyon Country Magazine, Community, Sand Canyon Journal | October 10, 2019

Sand-Canyon full logo

A group of concerned Sand Canyon residents formed the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force and are taking steps to formally resist a building project proposed by Sand Canyon Country Club owner Steve Kim.

Hundreds of residents attended a standing-room-only meeting on September 11 at The Church of the Canyons to hear from speakers set up by the task force. Issues on the agenda included:

  • Emergency Evacuation Dangers
  • Major Zone Change Required
  • Cumulative Infrastructure Burden & Other Developments
  • Open Space Elimination

Two retired fire captains spoke first, discussing the hardship of evacuating during fires. Using phrases like “recipe for disaster,” they spoke of the difficulty in getting people, horses and other animals out of the canyon during the Sand Fire of 2016. Cars, trucks and trailers sat on roads for hours waiting to drive out of Sand Canyon when evacuated.

The two former firefighters laid out physical reasons why alternate routes to exit Sand Canyon are not reasonable alternatives when there’s a wildfire.

Resident and architect Russell Meyers, AIA, spoke about the changes required to allow Steve Kim to proceed with a project of this size, including a removal of Sand Canyon’s “Special Standards District” zoning.

“This rezoning & project will adversely affect our rural and equestrian lifestyle with the infusion of high-density, mass commercial-oriented development in the least density-zoned area of our city,” he said. “And it will do so now and more so in the future.”

He explained that the general plan is intended and recognizes the need to provide for all residents with a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle, establishing the appropriate distribution of land use by type, intensity, density and codes through zoning.

“Our special village and Special Standards District is facing the most transformational challenge to date,” he said. “We need to protect it. This individual developer’s current proposal, long-term vision or underlying agenda intended in our community is not compatible with mine nor, hopefully, your vision. It’s our choice where and how we choose to live.”

Next, Sand Canyon resident Susan Carey spoke to the group.

“We are being told by project supporters that we, Sand Canyon residents, will have to adjust our lives to accommodate this commercial facility and get used to more traffic, constant noise and thousands of visitors,” she said. “And the reason we’re supposed to make these sacrifices? There (are) two: So the city can get tax revenues from the hotel and so the developer makes a huge profit from the speculative real estate purchase.”

She talked about the lack of fairness in the trade-off and the alarming change in the environment if the City of Santa Clarita leadership agrees to it.

“Many of us are very worried that if the city is leaning toward approving this project then that’s a signal to us residents that the city is ready to disregard our special status,” she said.
Resident Michael Hogan took the stage next and told the audience about the stipulations made when the land was sold to Ted Robinson for the golf course. He explained that city leaders made sure there was plenty of open space and protected the rural nature of Sand Canyon. He also said that none of the current Santa Clarita City Council members were serving at the time.

Residents do not want members of the Santa Clarita Planning Commission or the City Council to forget the zoning granted to Sand Canyon at the time nor to dismiss it as unimportant. That’s one of the goals of the task force.

“What started as three people at my dining room table grew into a task force of 27 in order to stop the Sand Canyon Resort from changing the land’s zoning from open space to community commercial,” said Alex Guerrero, chairman of the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force. “It has now taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of Sand Canyon residents now standing united in opposition of this development.”

When the late Clement and Paula Cox sold some of their acreage for the development of Robinson Ranch Golf Club and adjacent homes in the late 1990s, there were stipulations drafted regarding zoning.

On September 10, 1996 the Santa Clarita City Council unanimously approved, with community input, a zone change allowing for the construction of single-family homes and the preservation of approximately 300 acres of land into perpetuity as recreational/open space at the location being proposed for this resort.

“Perpetuity, as we all know, is defined as ‘forever,’” Guerrero said. “Now, the City of Santa Clarita is entertaining a request by a developer to change that open space zoning to allow for commercial construction. That should alarm all Santa Clarita residents. That park, trail, greenbelt, Central Park or bike path our citizens thought they had ‘in perpetuity’ in their local neighborhoods are vulnerable if a billionaire developer wants to come convince the city to eliminate our open space in all corners of this city. The current City Council and Planning Commission will have to search within themselves and decide if they want to reverse a unanimous action taken by the Santa Clarita City Council in 1996. If that happens, how can we trust City Council votes and promises ever again?”

The Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force has a Facebook page and website you can visit to stay updated.

On the website StopSandCanyonResort.org you will find a petition you can sign, which reads:

We, the undersigned are:
AGAINST the Sand Canyon Country Club Hotel and Resort Development
AGAINST REZONING and ask that the Santa Clarita City Council keep Robinson Ranch golf course as Open Space
ASK the Santa Clarita City Council to recognize the Sand Canyon SPECIAL STANDARDS DISTRICT
https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopSandCanyonResort/

What is being proposed?
•      This will be one of the largest resorts in L.A. County right in the middle of Sand Canyon.

•      Zone change for this project will allow for future massive, dense, commercial use throughout the entire canyon forever.

•      3,000 occupants (guests, employees)

•      Main Hotel (1 three-story building 165,000 sf)

•      Main Hotel Basement & BOH (23,000 sf)

•      Wedding Hotel (3 three-story buildings 67,500 sf)

•      View Villas (14 two-story villas 110,000 sf)

•      Oak Villas (9 one-story & 1 two-story villas 47,500 sf)

•      Grand ballroom (10,000 sf)

•      Junior ballroom (3,000 sf)

•      Meeting room & pre-function space (10,700 sf)

•      Dining (3 restaurants with kitchens 25,000 sf)

•      Spa/Gym/Salon (33,000 sf)

Coach Joseph Maiale Blazing New Trails

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sports | September 13, 2019

Less than a year ago, Joseph Maiale got married, started a new job and took over the Canyon High School football team. With so many transitions at one time, it’s safe to say this new cowboy is a trailblazer.

Coach Joseph Maiale with team captains Evan Cox (#24) and Aydyn Litz (#12)

“It’s been amazing – I’ve loved every second at Canyon,” said the 38-year-old Maiale, who joined the special education staff at the school last semester when he also began working with the football team. “They are both, in many ways, full-time jobs. But it doesn’t feel like work. I spend a lot of time here at Canyon – I like teaching and coaching is a pleasure on top of that.”

Just last month he moved to Santa Clarita from Oxnard, where he coached a successful football program. He joined them during a rebuilding phase, which he’s also been a part of at other schools.

“I’ve worked on several staffs – St. Genevieve, Harvard-Westlake – it’s something I have experience with and the process is really fun,” said the coach, who may apply similar rebuilding strategies at Canyon, which he describes as having “a couple of rough years.”

Maiale’s strategy? Consistency.

“Do we do the little things right? Do we do them all the time?” he posed. “Consistency is good in whatever we do. The lessons are consistency and effort.”

Maiale grew up in Reseda and played football at Cleveland High School and Pierce College. He then joined the football team at Menlo College in Northern California.

He’s been coaching about 15 years, but changed careers a few years ago when he left a job in sales to become a special education teacher. He also worked as a substitute teacher.
“I’m used to transitions,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to staying here.”

So, while a lot has changed in the new coach’s life, he’s no maverick on the field. He just believes everyone is the sum of their experiences.

“I’m new here. I bring my experience working at different schools,” he explained. “I have some success and some experience helping programs rebuild. And I’ve been where the facilities are not this good and there’s not this much support.”

Canyon High School football is a Maiale family experience. Maiale’s brother George was on the Cowboys coaching staff last year and continues as a defensive coordinator, while Joe’s specialty is offensive coordinating and line coaching.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach as long as I have,” Coach Joe Maiale said. “I’ve pretty much coached every position on the field.”

Joe and George’s parents, who still live in Reseda, attend the games along with other family members. Their father coached them through Pop Warner and Little League and now enjoys watching from the stands.

“I’ve been around a lot of really successful coaching,” Coach Maiale said when asked about his style. “We’re teachers. Are we teaching the kids the right way?”

The new Cowboys coach hopes to improve the program, of course, but he also wants to foster a positive family atmosphere, inviting the community to attend games.

“I want them to come out and be a part of it. We want it to be a family … we want you at the games,” he said. “We welcome Canyon alumni to be part of something special. It brings up the school and the culture.”

And so far, so good.

“Everyone is very supportive,” he said. “Everyone’s been so kind and welcoming. I’ve had the time of my life.”

Sand Canyon Country Club Hotel & Resort Where does it stand?

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 13, 2019

An email went out to Sand Canyon homeowners at the beginning of April 2019 informing the neighborhood that the original Notice of Preparation, or NOP, for the property – formerly Robinson Ranch – had been amended. The email from Hai Nguyen, associate planner for the City of Santa Clarita, informed residents of the revised NOP and gave them the opportunity to give him feedback over a one-month period.

A meeting was called for May 21, 2019, offering interested parties the chance to go to Sand Canyon Country Club to meet with Nguyen and Steve Kim, who has owned the 77-acre golf course for approximately three years. About 50 residents gathered at the site for a short tour and general briefing.

Before all attendees had assembled, Kim told a few residents who arrived early, “This used to be a 36-hole golf course. Because water has always been an issue, we changed it to a 27-hole golf course, which is plenty, because the golf population has dropped significantly, as you know. Not many people play golf anymore.”

The project site is located at 27734 Sand Canyon Road at the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road.

According to the NOP, the proposed project would result in the replacement of existing open space that was formerly a part of the Mountain Course of Robinson Ranch Golf Club with a new resort and spa consisting of the following:

Main Hotel: three-story building with 241 rooms/keys totaling approximately 165,000 square feet, and back of house and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing space in the Main Hotel basement totaling approximately 23,000 square feet
Wedding Hotel: three three-story buildings with 81 rooms/keys totaling approximately 50,000 square feet air conditioned space and 17,500 square feet of open non-air-conditioned space with an outdoor wedding ground and pergola
View Villas: 14 two-story villas with 56 rooms/keys totaling approximately 110,000 square feet

The Sand Canyon Homeowners Association Board of Directors drafted a list of “major concerns” with the proposal, which was sent to residents in the area: (SC=Sand Canyon and RR=Robinson Ranch)

Primary reasons that the SCCC Resort is a seriously inappropriate project for the Sand Canyon Community.

  • Dangerous. The project is dangerous to Sand Canyon residents and resort guests/workers because:
    Currently, there is no way to quickly and safely evacuate SC residents, and resort guests and workers, from the canyon in the event of a wildfire. Adding hundreds of hotel occupants and staff will only exacerbate the already existing and dangerous evacuation problem.
    Even if a 2nd access road across the Santa Clara River is added to service the SC and the resort, the number of people and vehicles involved in an evacuation would still radically slow evacuation of SC residents on SC Road and at the intersection of SC Road with Lost Canyon Road, increasing the risk of death and injury to residents and resort visitors.
    If the resort is used to ‘shelter in place’ firefighting resources will have to be devoted to the resort instead of saving SC residences and fighting spread of the fire. Shelter in place is a last resort and not a first line of fire defense.
    Building any high-density facility in a high-risk fire area such as Sand Canyon is simply irresponsible, especially as climate change and drought periods have increased, and will continue to increase fire risk in the area.
    Sand Canyon Special Standards District (SCSSD). The resort is inherently incompatible with the purpose of the SCSSD, which is to “maintain, preserve and enhance the rural and equestrian character of Sand Canyon.” The resort would be a high-density, purely commercial and non-rural use in direct conflict with the purpose and intent of the SCSSD standards.
  • Zoning. (It is) incompatible with Sand Canyon zoning, which is low-density residential throughout Sand Canyon (1 or 2 acre min. lot size). Resort would be a high-density commercial use completely incompatible with the zoning that applies to all other areas of Sand Canyon. Most Sand Canyon residents live here BECAUSE of the zoning and SCSSD protections against commercial uses and developments like the proposed resort. Consistent zoning protects community character and property values.
  • Water. The resort will require significant and enormous water volumes to operate even in drought periods, using resources that would otherwise be available to existing residents and businesses.
    Cumulative projects an impermissible burden on infrastructure. When analyzing this project and its effects on SC (and the Sand Canyon 14 freeway on and off ramps), the other current and planned projects must be taken into consideration. The Vista Canyon project and Sand Canyon Commercial Plaza (NE corner of Sand Canyon and Soledad) are already underway and contain hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, office and residential square footage. When the Mancara project is factored in along with Ted Robinson’s land, hundreds of acres of development are going to cause unmanageable and dangerous overloads on the existing infrastructure. Simply put, this project cannot be looked at in a vacuum.
    Open Space Conversion. (It) takes away 75 acres of Open Space that SC residents were specifically promised as part of the Robinson Ranch Golf Course approval. The RR golf course project approval included dedication of acreage on the RR property to be Open Space, which was an essential element of that approval to many SC residents who otherwise would have opposed the RR golf course.
  • Traffic. The resort itself (even when one does not consider the other projects) will add substantial traffic to Sand Canyon Road, from resort guests, workers and service vehicles, when SC is already very busy and backed up at Lost Canyon Road many times during the day to traffic diverting (due to Waze and Maps) from Hwy 14, school traffic, and other local traffic use.
  • Noise. The resort would have noisy outdoor activities for most each day and into the night, including a water park, outdoor pools, outdoor wedding venue and sports courts, which will impact surrounding neighborhoods and wildlife in the National Forest Area adjacent to SCCC. Hotels require large delivery trucks and trash trucks that bring noise at odd hours.
  • Lights. Night lighting at the resort will impact surrounding neighborhood and wildlife in the adjacent National Forest Area.
  • Viability. If the resort fails, which many think is likely due to weather, setting and lack of nearby attractions that would be of interest to potential guests, and expected of a 5-star resort, the buildings will be a blight in the community, with no alternative use that is compatible with SCSSD or surrounding zoning.
  • No Development and Hotel Management Experience. The current owner has already stated his intention to “run” the hotel himself. Simply put, he has no hotel or development experience. His lack of experience in running a golf course has already created unfortunate results. Further, the current ownership has no experience in developing such a large project. The inevitable missteps and mistakes will have drastic impacts on many unintended victims (the SC residents) who will have to live with those impacts for dozens of years.
  • Negative Impact on Property Value. Buyers looking for a new home will avoid homes near Hotels and Commercial Properties due to noise, transient activity, increased traffic, and potentially unwelcome events. Homeowners who must sell could become “distressed sales.”

Deborah Rocha on the Move

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 17, 2019

Like many horse lovers, Deborah Rocha keeps things moving. The ambitious founder of SRD Straightening Reins has kept the equine therapy nonprofit operating for eight years while teaching full-time in the Saugus Union School District.

She’s also had to move the organization’s horse ranch a number of times, mostly due to the charity’s financial limitations. And she’s at it again.

After a brief time in Sand Canyon, SRD Straightening Reins has moved to Davenport Road on the border of Canyon Country and Agua Dulce.

And Rocha’s moved on in other ways. She retired from teaching on June 14 after 34 years, which means she can devote herself even more wholly to the work of the nonprofit.

“I’m going to take a leap of faith,” Rocha said. “I think there’s a huge need. And I can’t stand by and do nothing.”

It’s hard to imagine Rocha “doing nothing,” but she explained what she meant by the statement.

“I was looking at where I was and what I was doing, and I couldn’t do either well,” she said. “The Board has been very supportive.”

SRD Straightening Reins is a 501(c)(3) offering interactive therapies to improve adolescent and teen mental health and well-being.

She recently had six youth working with SRD – ages 11 to 17 – who had been suicidal.

“We know when we get the kids to the ranch and into counseling, we can get them to stop self-medicating,” she said, “and get them back in a regular school setting.”

SRD is working with the Hart District, with the kids who aren’t in a place where they can be in a school setting. Rocha is also working with youth who are a part of the foster care system, some of whom are homeless.

The ranch where SRD currently operates is only an acre, so the nonprofit is open to other property options. Like most charities, SRD always needs more resources. Ninety-five cents on the dollar goes directly to programs for the kids, Rocha said.

They have scouts who establish projects on the ranch, which is volunteer labor. A Girl Scout troop helped to plant ground cover. Volunteers from Real Life Church in Valencia created fire clearance around the property and contributed to perimeter fencing for additional privacy.

Rocha is working on sustainability with funding and tackling some of the organization’s short-term and long-term goals, but it’s difficult to obtain government money such as grants.

“Here’s the challenge – when you look at city grants, they want to give you money for a new program, not for operations,” Rocha explained. “Then the Board has to decide, ‘Do we start a new program and stop one that’s working?’ We say no.”

But the animals have to be fed.

“We have some animal sponsors that offset the cost,” she said. “Our feed bill is anywhere from $1,400 to $1,700 dollars a month. And we do get a discount on vet bills.”

They recently had a goat that got sick and died while several kids were on the ranch. Rocha said it’s the type of event that offers a therapeutic opportunity. In this case, there were foster children in the program who had recently lost their mother and it opened some doors for discussion.

“The animal isn’t the only piece. It’s the trained clinician, the equine specialist. They ask, ‘What’s the animal doing and why?’” Rocha explained. “The opportunity to be with a herd of animals gives them time to reflect where they are and what they’re doing.”

Part of the process involves building the confidence to work with a 1,400-pound animal.

“Even the chickens – it’s them being present where they are and the trained staff being able to capitalize on that,” Rocha said. “They can redirect: ‘What do you mean you don’t know how to communicate? What do you think the animal is saying to us?’”

Because of the safety issues involved in working with large animals, those who enter the program have to gain control of any drug or alcohol addiction before they can access services at Straightening Reins. But anyone Rocha can help through the program, she does.

“We don’t turn anybody away if somebody needs services,” she said. “One comes from as far away as Long Beach.”

Most Straightening Reins clients are age 10 to 19, she said, but currently there are individuals in the program age 5 to 23 who are getting horse therapy.

“We’re seeing more in their late teens to early 20s,” Rocha said.

She said they’re employing three foster youth and seeking employment for seven at-risk young people.

When contacted, individuals can start therapy within 72 hours. Part of the advocacy at Straightening Reins involves becoming informed about the person’s school system, the day program and any doctors the family is working with. And it extends to everyone involved, from survivors who have lost someone to siblings of someone battling mental illness.

“It’s coming together,” Rocha said. “I’m not giving up on these kids.”

Hougo – We Go

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 17, 2019

For most of us, the closest we get to becoming world travelers is to stream the Netflix series “Planet Earth” on our iPads. But for Jim and Gwen Hougo, it’s been a way of life for the last 17 years. Since retiring in 2001 they have brought their total travels to 48 United States and 97 countries.

Sound impossible? For some of us, it probably would be.

“I spent 30 years teaching in Canyon Country and got to work with some of the most wonderful families,” Gewn Hougo said. “I am still in touch with many of my former students through the wonders of Facebook. One of the things I most enjoy is sharing my travel adventures.”

They didn’t hit the road immediately after retiring, but postponed their first trip, as the attacks of 9/11 occurred just a month after they hung up their hats.

“My husband, who worked for Lockheed for 34 years, always had traveling on his ‘bucket list,’” she said. “(We) were scared about the future, as were most Americans. But eight months later we took off in our new motor home for four months to explore our beautiful country. I think we visited 26 states, 325 museums, and many national and state parks. Let me tell you, we have one incredibly beautiful country with wonderful people.”

But their travels haven’t stopped at the U.S. borders.

“Then I took my retirement trip for a month in Australia, and three weeks in New Zealand,” she said. “We discovered this whole world is full of beautiful places, fantastic people and wonderful adventures. My fellow Sulphur Springs teacher, Mrs. Burleigh, and her husband joined us for a fun time. We also stopped off for a week in Tahiti to break up the long plane ride.”

Their next adventure took them to South Africa for 42 days.

“We got a little, 18-foot motor home and in a tour with nine other couples explored this amazing country,” she said. “It was in 2002, so Nelson Mandela was stepping down and the country was struggling with the upcoming elections. … The inequality of white and black Africans made for great social confusion.

“The animals in Krueger National Park provided the safari experience and the modern and wealthy society gave us much to explore.”

The couple has racked up so many miles of exotic travels that it’s hard to make a distinction among favorites. “It depends on what you consider important,” Gwen Hougo said. “For history, nothing beats Egypt and China. For pure beauty, New Zealand and Tahiti are hard to beat.”

She also finds a lot of common features across the globe. “We do have beautiful memories of exciting adventures,” she said: “Every place in our incredible world has something special to share with a traveler with an open mind.”

New Business – Panacea

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 16, 2019

One of the first of its kind in Santa Clarita, Panacea is a new business that just opened its doors in Canyon Country. It is a store carrying a range of CBD merchandise, meaning they are hemp plant products, which have the same benefits as the cannabis plant but with no psychoactive effects.

“We opened a month ago and have been building a loyal customer base from the community,” said store co-owner Nare Hami.

The products at Panacea are derived from hemp, and not cannabis, therefore none of their products have the ability to get you high. They carry sublingual oils, pain creams, edibles, skin care, disposable pens, vapes, pet treats and more.

“There’s a difference between marijuana and cannabis, CBD and hemp,” Hami explained. “The products we carry are derived from hemp. Legally, CBD products can carry up to .3 percent THC or less and this does not get you high. People do not realize the benefits it has as far as medicinal use goes. People who have tried it and done their research swear by it.”

Panacea’s clientele are individuals who want to avoid taking chemicals and relying on medication with negative side effects.

“Our target customers would be anyone looking for the link to good living,” Hami said. “Generally the customers that purchase CBD are dealing with arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, anxiety, insomnia, or just an imbalance in their system.”

Humans and other mammals have an endocannabinoid system, and proponents of CBD claim it helps to balance all of the body’s systems, creating homeostasis.

“This means the CBD attaches to receptors in your body and helps maintain a balance in each system,” Hami explained. “People don’t realize the positive effects CBD has on humans and pets. They quickly assume it is like marijuana and (aren’t) informed.”

Hami said it was curiosity that drove her family to become involved in the business.

“For a year now, we started reading every article there was about CBD and finding anything CBD related to see what it really was,” Hami said. “The business is run by our family and we all have tried CBD for a long time for different reasons. I personally use it for chronic back pain and anxiety and it has changed my life. I went from not being able to drive without having anxiety to driving all the way to San Diego and back alone without a single trace of panic.”

In the short time Panacea has been open the family has liked its reception. “Our customer base has been very satisfied with CBD, but everybody reacts differently,” Hami said. “What works on me may not work on you and it is always recommended to check with a doctor before using CBD, especially if you are taking any medication.”

Skyline New Home Development

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 16, 2019

When you drive down Sierra Highway and look up to the west, the new homes you see on the ridge are part of the Skyline development, which held its grand opening last fall.

There are approximately 1,200 home sites, according to Lyndsay Fuller, Pardee Homes director of sales and marketing. At press time there were about 150 homes sold and 20 are already occupied.

“We just did a survey of buyers so far and it was staggering how many people responded about the location and views,” Fuller said. “Also, the open space and having breathability.”

Some of the advantages to Skyline, Fuller said, is the presence of a community center, which was ready on opening day.

“It’s like having a resort amenity in your backyard,” she said, “with cabanas, a state-of-the-art gym with Peloton bikes. The gym is about 1,200 square feet.”

Like a lot of housing developments, residents have access to a clubhouse they can rent out for parties. There is an outdoor area with built-in barbecues totaling 3,800 square feet of common space. There’s a coffee bar on site and the coffee bar doubles as a welcome center for the home sales office.

The Lookout is a community space for recreation, fitness and entertaining and a second recreation area is planned for 2021/2022. People can connect with the neighborhood at pools and playgrounds, a bocce ball area, as well as the workout room and coffeehouse.

“You can go to the coffeehouse and get information about all four neighborhoods,” Fuller said. “We staffed it with a barista who is also a licensed sales professional for home buyers starting their home search.”
The neighborhoods are:

Sola: 1,882-2,225 square feet
Celestia: 2,001-2,596 square feet
Mystral: 2,600-3,132 square feet
Lyra: 2,861-3,506 square feet

“Skyline is unique,” Fuller said. “We took home a silver award at the (California Building Industry) Gold Nugget Awards.”

There are several dry creeks, one near the gym, and their focal points use reclaimed water. In the children’s area there’s a splash pad near the pool and a water tower system with buckets.

Fuller explained that Skyline has progressive features that appeal to millennial home shoppers. For instance, there is a butterfly garden you can only access through the paseo system which you “stumble upon while on a hike,” she said.

The paseos connect all the way down to the proposed elementary school, which will be the newest addition to the Sulphur Springs School District when it opens in the future. And the road for vehicle use connecting Whites Canyon to Sierra Highway is set to open this fall.

To visit Skyline you can drive to the office at 29049 Stratus Street in Santa Clarita. It opens every day at 10 a.m. except Wednesdays, when it opens at 1 p.m. It includes access to the model homes and the amenities.
Visit LifeatSkyline.com.

New Business – Window Genie

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 15, 2019

If you ever wished your windows were magically clean and clear, you can move on to your next two wishes now. Canyon Country’s newest arrival is Window Genie, a company with the tagline: “We clean windows and a whole lot more!”

“Above all, we are a service business – complete customer satisfaction and repeat business are our primary goals,” said Kelly Ford, who opened the business with her husband, Joe. “Our variety of services are geared to help homeowners maintain the value of their investment.”

Window Genie cleans screens, tracks, and sills offering a “no-streak guarantee.” The company is the largest national provider of window film (solar protection, security and decorative) and they also clean solar panels to help maximize efficiency. Services include pressure washing most every exterior home surface including cement, pavers, stucco, brick, wood, roofing materials, pavers, and siding. And their expertise also includes cleaning rain gutters and downspouts.

Homeowners in Canyon Country for 25 years, the Fords like engaging with the community, leaving the corporate world behind. “We have developed the most amazing network of neighbors and friends – there is a real sense of community here,” Kelly Ford said. “We have watched this valley grow and prosper while still managing to retain a ‘small-town’ feel – in Canyon Country, most particularly.”

The Window Genie franchise concept is owned by Neighborly Brands, a premier provider of services focused on repairing, maintaining and enhancing customers’ homes and businesses. In the SCV it includes Mr. Rooter, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Handyman, Molly Maid and Rainbow International. Also, through “Window 4 Wishes” franchise partners contribute to their favorite causes in their communities across the nation. For Window Genie of Santa Clarita those include Alzheimer’s research, veterans’ support and animal rescue organizations.

Contact Window Genie by calling 661-568-6768 or visit WindowGenie.com/santaclarita/.

Route 66 Classic Grill

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | July 15, 2019

George Thomas knows what he likes. And when he makes a decision, he doesn’t let challenges stop him.

It’s been 20 years since he opened Route 66 Classic Grill in Canyon Country. And that’s after a 25-year career on the Los Angeles Police Force.

It’s pretty safe to say he likes big projects – He’s even built more than one home in Sand Canyon.

“I moved out here in 1973 when I became a Los Angeles policeman,” Thomas said.

He lived about 12 years in Valencia before buying a lot on Saddleback Road where he and his wife at the time turned their ideal floor plan into a reality.

“We’d go to new construction sites like Circle J and go through models and take pictures of things we liked,” he said. “We kind of put our pictures together and showed it to the architect and after a lot of drawing and redrawing, we had it built.”

The Thomas family was extremely content with their design – they even used the floor plan when they built their next house – only in reverse.

“We loved that floor plan,” he said. “We were constantly having people approaching us wanting to buy the plans and build a house.”

Knowing what he likes came in handy for George Thomas when planning his restaurant – another first for him. He liked the ‘50s diner theme and wanted it to involve cars. At first he looked into the Hudson’s Grill franchise, but consultants urged him to create his own restaurant.

“I knew very little going in and I just listened to everybody. I was like a sponge – anybody who had anything to say about what I should do,” the restaurateur said. “I’ve been absolutely blessed.”

Whatever he did, the Santa Maria native knew one thing would be on his menu: Santa Maria tri-tip.

“I grew up barbecuing with my dad on oak wood – he did it for Kiwanis and American Legion,” he explained. “In Santa Maria the Chamber even has a barbecue museum, which goes back to the 1800s when the cattle ranchers would go to big auctions there. They would barbecue their beef and compete for who had the best beef.”

Thomas grills tri-tip every day on oak wood at Route 66 and he said it’s a customer favorite. He also has a trailer that does off-site grilling for events.

When it came to decisions about his new restaurant’s location, he was considering Stevenson Ranch. “Because my boys grew up in Canyon Country and went to Canyon High School, I decided to do it here,” he said.

George Thomas’ son Rick and his L.A. County Fire “Strike Team” during one of the local fires

LeAnn Rimes at Route 66 during the Fire Hogs Fundraiser

Crowds at a Love Ride after-party

Thomas’ sons, now both grown and working as firefighters, played football at Canyon High, and George Thomas is one of the parents who was pivotal in getting Coach Harry Welch to return to the school. Thomas and others also garnered the funds to erect a sign reflecting the field’s new name: Harry Welch Stadium.

“I was point man for getting the stadium named for him,” he said. “We passed the hat among big fans of Harry’s and paid to have the sign made.”

But it’s the tip of the iceberg when you consider Thomas’ support of local causes.

You can see the massive attendance at Route 66 Bike Nights, which are every Wednesday, and the parking lot is packed during monthly car shows. Thomas has the longest running bike night and car show in Santa Clarita history.

And in this facet as well, Thomas knows what he wants: for local nonprofits to benefit.

“A man wanted to put on a California State Arm Wrestling Championship,” Thomas explained. “I said we’ll do it under one condition: benefit a local nonprofit.”

He has other examples too.

“There was a car accident on Soledad where some young men got killed, so I called Canyon High School and asked the principal if there was anything I could do,” he said.

Thomas was directed to Safe Rides, a nonprofit organization offering teens free, safe rides home on weekends after partying. For 20 years all of the proceeds from Route 66 car shows went to Safe Rides, which is now closed, so the shows are benefiting Rotary Club.

“Safe Rides was a perfect fit for us because it’s about kids driving safely,” Thomas said.

Two of the business owner’s favorite events were the tribute to 9/11 and a special event honoring a military man from Canyon Country.

“A local Canyon High School graduate became a Navy Seal,” Thomas said. “I met his parents and I was so impressed by hearing his story. He was constantly deployed and they never knew when he was coming home. We recognize (soldiers) when they’re injured or killed, but not while they’re alive.”

So, Thomas organized a “welcome home party” for the young man which drew approximately 500 attendees. It included a low flyby from a Van Nuys Condor Squadron.

“When I asked if they’d do (the flyby) they said, ‘Absolutely.’” Thomas said. “I told them to drive back up to Route 66 for dinner after returning to Van Nuys and they did – to meet the (man of honor).”

The list of events and fundraisers goes on and on. There have been so many, in fact, that Santa Clarita Planning Commissioner Dennis Ostrom called Route 66 Classic Grill the “entertainment hub for this side of the valley.” Thomas likes that reputation.

And even when it comes to the future, George Thomas knows what he wants. His two boys and four grandchildren live in the Santa Clarita Valley and he’d like to spend more time with them. Also, six years ago he started riding his bike, as many as 20 miles a day.

But while he is contemplating retirement, he won’t abandon the goals of Route 66 Classic Grill. He wants the friendly staff and popular food choices at the restaurant to thrive … and for the events to continue.

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