ANTIOCH -- Access denied ... still.

Antioch leaders gave the go-ahead earlier this month to extend the closure of two stretches of rural road as a blockade against blight.

Empire Mine Road, between Mesa Ridge Drive and Deer Valley Road, and McElheny Road, between East Sixth Street and Fulton Shipyard Road, will continue to be closed until September 2014.

The City Council re-evaluates the closures every 18 months.

Empire Mine, located in the rural hills southeast of the city, has been closed to vehicle traffic since 2005. McElheny, near the waterfront by Fulton Shipyard, was closed in 2011.

City officials say the closing of the stretch of McElheny has helped curb criminal activity, including homeless encampments and the illegal dumping of vessels, construction materials and oil.

Antioch police have responded to 14 calls for service in the area in the past 18 months, compared with 53 the previous five years.

"To date, we think it's been successful as far as keeping folks out of there that shouldn't be there," said Ron Bernal, the city's public works director. .

Councilman Gary Agopian points out it was the businesses near McElheny that requested the area be cordoned off.

"It works. It helps really reduce the blight in the area," he said.

Empire Mine, once a popular Antioch teen hangout because of urban legends surrounding a small "gravity hill," "slaughterhouse," and "Gates of Hell," was closed by both the city and county because the secluded area attracted vandals, target shooting, arson and drug and alcohol use.

Rancher Jack Roddy asked that it be closed, giving several reasons for the request, including cattle being shot and killed, crime and violence among teenagers, the greens at Roddy Ranch golf course being torn up and dozens of piles of dumped trash.

"We don't have the vandalism there anymore," said Roddy, noting that it looks better, and pedestrians and bicyclists can use the road. "It's saving the city a tremendous amount of money."

Antioch can extend the closure of Empire Mine four additional times and McElheny eight more before permanent decisions must be made, according to state law.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.