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CITY TO REFINE FACILITY INTO OIL MUSEUM; NEGLECT HAS LEFT SITE A CRUDE SHELL OF FORMER GLORY.

Byline: Teresa Jimenez Daily News Staff Writer

Way back in the late 1800s, crude oil was piped across the Santa Clarita Valley, from Mentryville to the Pioneer Oil Refinery, where it was processed into kerosene and grease and loaded onto trains for shipment.

Built in the 1870s, the Pioneer refinery was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River - an operation that sparked the start of the oil industry in Santa Clarita. It also led to the creation of Mentryville as a small company town with its own schoolhouse and helped lure residents to Newhall.

The refinery - designated as a state historical site - now belongs to the city, thanks to a donation last year by the Chevron Corp. The question now is what to do with the site, located right next to Hart Park, especially since it needs a major renovation to erase the signs caused by years of neglect - damage exacerbated by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Last week, Chevron reviewed a plan with the city's Parks Commission to restore the site.

``We've evaluated the site for the best type of public access,'' said Wayne Weber, parks development administrator. ``What future amenities might be there and what would it take to visually restore the refinery site?''

As part of the donation, Chevron has offered to contribute $15,000 toward improvements at the site. And the city would like to see features added that would make an immediate difference to schoolchildren and residents who visit the site.

``The intent of the restoration is to educate the majority,'' Weber said. ``Most people won't understand how the refinery worked unless they're engineers.''

Signs providing information about the refinery would allow people to go on self-guided tours and would require a small investment, Weber said. In addition, visitors currently have limited access, but the city would like to provide full access.

``The staff is working to find out what the $15,000 will include,'' Weber said. ``It could include graded parking for visitors and signs to educate the community about the refinery. We're still working with (Chevron) to figure out what the biggest bang for the buck will be.''

The study looked at the cost of restoring the site to make it more presentable to the public, and the price tag could climb to $275,000 depending on improvements made, Weber said.

Many of the recommendations will have to wait until the city gets grant money or help from a private company or group willing to help pay for the project, Weber said.

``The $15,000 would just scratch the surface,'' Weber said. ``The $275,000 is just an estimate to create a visual character of the site. It wouldn't be operational.''

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Photo

PHOTO (Color in SAC Edition only) (Ran in SAC Edition only) The Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall, which was built in the 1870s, was the first facility of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

John Lazar/Daily News
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 7, 1998
Words:492
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