In the early 1960s, cattle and sheep ranches were starting to disappear, and the valley was beginning to fill up with houses and families. The once-sleepy countryside village, known more for being a roadside stop or a movie filming location, was rapidly becoming a growing town, soon to become a city. It was then that the residents began to grasp that something was missing. The programs and services they had enjoyed in their former neighborhoods could not be found in this expanding community.
Residents in the Conejo Valley wanted places for children and adults to gather and activities to participate in and enjoy. There were no local agencies in the Conejo to call upon for assistance, aside from the school and water districts. Therefore, addressing the need for recreation and park facilities became a high priority.
So, in the fall of 1962, a ballot measure was proposed to form a recreation and park district in the Conejo Valley. After the Ventura County board of supervisors gave their approval to proceed, the proposed district boundaries, the organizational structure of the agency and an election were all set in place. While the concept was admirable, it was unknown if the idea would be fully supported. The “consent of the governed” had not only to approve the measure but elect a governing board of directors to represent them and give their consent for additional property taxes to fund the new agency. Nothing like this had been done in the Conejo Valley before.
The ballot measure passed overwhelmingly, with more than 80 percent of those voting in favor of the new recreation and park district. The voices in the Conejo were heard, and the start of local agency control began. The actual formation of the Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD) was initiated in 1963. At that time, the 1.5-acre Estella Park on Erbes Road was the only property owned by CRPD, and the first-year budget for the new district was about $40,000. Four years later, in 1967, two new parks – Old Meadows Park and Banyan Park – were the first projects developed by CRPD.
As the Conejo Recreation and Park District celebrates its 60th anniversary this fall, it is commemorating the opening of its latest, newly developed park — the 14-acre Paige Lane Neighborhood Park. With this addition, the Conejo Recreation and Park District now has 64 parks and facilities district-wide, on 1,180 acres, with close to 13,000 acres of open space and more than 150 miles of hiking trails. The current annual budget for CRPD has grown to approximately $25 million.
While the community has changed over the intervening 60 years, the Conejo Recreation and Park District’s mission to provide high-quality recreational activities and a variety of programs has not changed. The CRPD is recognized statewide as a leading recreation and park district because of its variety of facilities, the number of quality parks and the well-maintained amenities it provides throughout the district. This would not be possible without the dedicated district staff and the engaged residents of the Conejo Valley.
The same astounding support that was behind the creation of CRPD sixty years ago is still evident in our community today. We are blessed.
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.