I recently came to the realization that after 100 posts in 7 months I’ve given a scant few sentences to the Ojai Meadow Preserve. What can I say, I’m a Ventura River Preserve guy, with it’s miles of quiet sylvan trails and punishing ascents (and ankle deep piles of horse apples). But in light of this coming weekend’s OVLC 25th birthday party I’m going to give this idyllic plot of land it’s proper due. Enjoy the before and afters… thanks to Brian for the befores and Elisa for the afters.
For eons and millenia the 57 acre patch of earth between Meiners Oaks and the City of Ojai was most likely oak forest, native grasslands and at least 4 acres of navigable wetland. As we moved west and settled the valley most was cleared for the grazing of livestock, a natural progression considering the wealth of native grass.
The early 1900s saw the meadow as two distinct parcels, the 25 acre Besant Meadows and the 32 acre Palmer Property. Besant Meadows was part of the larger Krotona Hill holdings and original plans were for an educational, agricultural and artistic community. In 1946 Happy Valley School was established by educators such as Alduous Huxley, we now know it as Meiners Oaks Elementary. In the 1950s a well-meaning teacher and some eager students planted the infamous Eucalyptus groves. To this day those same trees are hogging water and poisoning competing plants, but also providing shelter for thousands of birds, quite the conundrum.
Ominous plans for the property in ensuing decades included senior condos, a highway off-ramp and a hovercraft landing pad (not the most reliable source on that one). The Palmer property abutting Highway 33 has also had a long history of thwarted developments, lawsuits and litigation, with the OVLC swooping in more than a decade ago to purchase both for conservation and restoration.
Meanwhile years of road development without thought to where rain waters would drain as well as building Matilija Junior High to the east of the property (now Nordhoff HS) caused regular flooding on Highway 33 and surrounding homes. Seasonal wetlands were drained as flood channels meant to alleviate issues only exacerbated them.
Starting in earnest in 2006 OVLC has worked to restore more natural drainage channels and recontoured the meadow to allow the wetlands to reform. Thousands of native plants and trees were purchased, and many thousands more are being grown by me and my dedicated crew of volunteers (Elisa, Ted, Jan, Pearl plus many more over the years).
Would love to hear any stories about the good or bad ole days at the meadow. Later this week I hope to have Brian Stark, master and mad scientist in charge of the OMP restoration give us a peek into the future. OVLC (and me) are continually working to preserve and restore your local wilderness. If you have a few bucks please become a member. If you don’t I could always use help in the nursery so give a shout.