LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Residents in Whittier are bitterly divided over the city’s plans to drill for oil on land that had initially been purchased as a nature preserve to drive away potential drillers.

Over ten years after the city purchased 1,200 acres to create the Whittier Wilderness Preserve, Conservation Authority director Bob Henderson told KNX 1070 the city’s recent revenue shortfalls has forced him to reconsider the proposal.

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“When oil started going up to the $80 range situation, I literally suddenly remembered it one night, and said ‘My gosh, we better investigate this’,” said Henderson.

But the future of what Henderson called “a very valuable asset” is far from certain: residents are voicing concerns that the quality of life could be adversely affected if drilling plans go forward.

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“We’re concerned about the noise, the pollution, the actual amount of land that’s going to be lost,” said Roy McKee, vice president of Whittier Hills Oil Watch.

“There’s more land involved here than just the seven acres,” he added.

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While Los Angeles County stills needs to approve the drilling plans, residents are warning that neighbors in surrounding communities may soon need to organize their own local watch groups.