In California and across the nation, cities are reclaiming their rivers to create vital recreational and gathering spaces.
The Ventura River Parkway: a new vision for a lost treasure
The Ventura River, one of the last self-sustaining rivers in Southern California, sustains one of the greatest diversities of plants and animals in the region. Since the first settlers arrived at its banks, the river has been an invaluable water source and gathering place for people.
But today many residents and visitors are hardly aware the river exists. Incompatible land uses, especially along the river’s lower reaches, have created a visual and physical barrier, rendering the river largely invisible. People have few places where they can access and enjoy it.
A coalition of local groups, state agencies, and a national conservation organization are working together to reclaim the river and reconnect the community to its greatest resource. Their vision—The Ventura River Parkway—would create a continuous network of parks, trails and natural areas along the lower 16 miles of the river from Ojai to the estuary.
Not only will the plan preserve this historic waterway, it will do so much more: protect water quality, conserve streamside and aquatic habitat, and restore sensitive floodplains. It will link neighborhoods to nature, and enhance our sense of place.
Now is the time to rediscover this valuable resource, to nurture public awareness and appreciation for the river, and offer more of the river’s benefits to the people, communities and businesses along its banks.
The Ventura River Parkway Vision: Building on a legacy of conservation
Land: A century ago, Ventura’s preeminent philanthropist, E.P. Foster, recognized the need to preserve the river for the public and donated the land for what are now Seaside Wilderness Park (the Ventura Fairgrounds), Emma Woods State Beach and Foster County Park. In the past decade, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and and its partners, have protected more than 2,000 acres of habitat preserves and recreational areas along the river thanks to community fundraising efforts and matching state bond funds.
Trails: The river parkway features one of the first rails-to-trails projects in Southern California, the Ojai Valley Trail, completed in 1989. Its nine miles connect with the six-mile Ventura River Trail and Omer Rains Trail to create one of the finest multiuse trail networks in the region.
Habitat: Ongoing efforts to restore the river to a more natural state will culminate in the removal of the Matilija Dam. When the dam is gone, the river’s steelhead trout will gain access to 17 miles of ideal habitat. The plans also include restoring habitat along the stream bank and increasing sediment flows downstream to replenish sand-starved beaches along the coast.
A Roadmap for the Future: What you can do
With your help, the Ventura River Parkway Vision can build on this legacy to reconnect our community to the river and assure public access along its entire length. The public interest is there. As evidenced by the hundreds of community members who participated in vision and planning sessions organized by Cal Poly Pomona and UC Extension, we can unite to develop a constituency and consensus for action. Partnerships between government, businesses, civic organizations, developers, landowners and the residents of Ventura and Ojai Valley are the key to making this vision a reality.
There are many things your organization can do to help. Attend planning meetings. Participate in educational and interpretive programs about the river and the life it supports. Express your support for protection of the river to your elected officials. If you have ideas, contact your local officials or any of the sponsors of this program to learn more about how you can be involved.
A vision plan for the Ventura River Parkway may be downloaded here: Ventura River Parkway Plan (Warning – large file — 92 MB!)