It was a great day to be out working on the trails.
This spring, a full 32 years after the first event of its kind in 1990, the Conejo Open Space Foundation (COSF) hosted the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) Trail Work Day at Wildwood Park. While the Rangers and volunteers did the “heavy lifting” on the trails, the COSF team helped with logistics: advertising, organizing, registration and providing snacks and lunch, which helped make the event enjoyable and successful.
While walking up and down the Santa Rosa Trail in Wildwood Park throughout the morning, I encountered a variety of volunteers who had traveled from as far away as Whittier. Others lived as close by as Wildwood. All wanted to do their part to help. Some even joined the crews spontaneously, having come to enjoy a day hike in Wildwood — then decided to help work on the trail instead!
Wildwood neighbors who frequent the park were eager to keep their neighborhood trails in good working condition. A dad and his two Boy Scout sons worked together on their assigned trail section, not as a scouting project but as a family activity.
Another volunteer worked on the very trail she had “adopted” through COSF to make sure it was being kept up to standards. CRPD general manager, Jim Friedl, had an assigned trail section where he was moving rocks to correct the drainage. COSCA administrator, Brian Stark, was hiking the trail, taking photos and encouraging everyone.
This kind of community effort has been going on for three decades here in the Conejo Valley. In 1989, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA – jointly managed by the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District) authorized the establishment of a Trails Advisory Committee to assist with the challenges of managing an ever-expanding open space trail system. At that time, the newly formed committee brought together hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians from around the community – a total of nine members.
The committee quickly began to set goals and objectives and assign tasks. It was an enthusiastic group, emblematic of the underlying values of Conejo Valley residents striving to promote a multi-use trail system. Whether drawing from the legacy of our equestrian roots or part of the increased bike riding activity on trails, all user groups were equally represented and respected.
Not wanting to be limited to trail use, the committee expanded its recommendations to include trail improvements and open space education. As a result, the first Trail Work Day was initiated on May 12, 1990, at the Los Robles Trail. The event was a success and has been held annually ever since, sometimes even twice a year in fall and spring. The COSCA Rangers dutifully identify trail improvement projects in anticipation of having a group of volunteers complete the projects in short order.
COSF was formed in 1995 as a nonprofit corporation to raise funds for COSCA to promote and maintain the trail system, as well as inform and instruct the public about our open space environment.
A volunteer work corps made up of trail enthusiasts and neighbors has grown to include scouting groups, service organizations, organized bicycle and equestrian groups and trained trail crews from around the region. On the recent work day, I was impressed not only with the variety of volunteers and organizations willing to contribute five (or more) hours of their Saturday morning to work on the trail but also that they were very aware of the intrinsic value that open space brings to our community — and that it should not be taken for granted.
The abundance of open space resources we enjoy in the Conejo Valley should not be looked at with indifference or utilized carelessly. Rather, it must be deliberately cared for and managed and vigilantly protected. Sustainability and conservation require action. I am grateful for those who volunteered and helped make the Santa Rosa Trail passable again. Be watching for the next event so you too can help at a Trail Work Day.
Doug Nickles is a director/board member for the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts. The views expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the district, agency or the respective boards.