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Who Cares for Conejo Open Space?

The ring of natural open space that encompasses the Conejo Valley remains in nearly the same state it has been in for centuries. While much of the valley bottom has been developed with homes and businesses, the serenity of the surrounding hillsides provides a backdrop that we often take for granted. Although it is a “natural” part of the valley, open space still requires active management and maintenance.

Everyone plays a role … So, look for an open space program you are interested in and go volunteer!

Conservation of natural resources refers to the sustainable or wise use and management of natural resources to allow for responsible and balanced use while ensuring they are sustained into the future. Early in the formative years of our community, officials worked closely together to ensure the conservation of open space by establishing an organization for that specific purpose.

Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency

The Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) was created in 1977 by a joint powers agreement between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District to facilitate open space acquisition, coordinate land use planning and policy decisions, and protect and manage open space resources in the Conejo Valley.

Currently, COSCA manages nearly 13,000 acres of open space and maintains more than 170 miles of trails. COSCA’s two administrative staff and 10 rangers oversee the day-to-day activities of the agency.

COSCA has organized the open space into geographic areas to facilitate developing regional management plans and identifying maintenance needs. Recently, the COSCA Board approved funding to repair erosion on an open space roadway to ensure emergency access is maintained and to reduce environmental degradation. Trail improvement plans and weed management plans are also part of COSCA’s efforts to manage and conserve open space resources.

Conejo Open Space Trails Action Committee

In 1988, the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory (now Action) Committee (COSTAC) was formed to act in a supporting role to the COSCA Board of Directors under the direction of COSCA staff. The Committee provides support for COSCA’s volunteer programs and assists with open space trail construction and maintenance.

Conejo Open Space Foundation

The Conejo Open Space Foundation (COSF) was formed in 1995 as a nonprofit corporation to promote and maintain open space and the multi-use trails of the Conejo Valley. Additionally, COSF desires “to educate the citizens, especially the children, as to their roles as custodians and protectors of the open space and the environment” (see cosf.org). The foundation financially supports and promotes many volunteer programs and open space projects.

Volunteers

Those who use and are passionate about open space are also key contributors to the care and maintenance of it by volunteering in a variety of opportunities, some of which are described below.

Making a Way for Adventure: A Trail Work Day crew carves out and smooths a path for hikers.

Trail Work Days are large volunteer events scheduled to address COSCA’s biggest projects. These events, which happen twice annually, may draw upwards of 150 volunteers to tackle challenging projects such as new trail construction and trail repairs.

Trail Ambassadors is a volunteer program focused on outreach to open space users in support of trail etiquette, trail maintenance and safety. The Ambassadors are trained to extend the efforts of COSCA Rangers to enhance the safety and enjoyment of visitors to the COSCA open space system.

Those willing to commit to the maintenance of a trail or trail section by performing minor repairs, removing litter, trimming vegetation, and reporting hazardous or degrading conditions or illegal trail uses can join the Adopt-A-Trail program.

Trails Education Days exist to instill in youngsters an appreciation and sense of stewardship of natural open space. Volunteers lead hikes into Wildwood Canyon, where they learn about park ranger careers, trail safety and courtesy and indigenous birds and animals. This program provides lessons for nearly one thousand Conejo Valley Unified School District 4th-grade students every spring. In 2024, the event will be held April 22–26.

From city and district officials, dedicated agency staff and community volunteers, everyone plays a role in ensuring that viable open space resources continue to be available not only for our children and grandchildren but for future generations. So, look for an open space program you are interested in and go volunteer!

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Our open space needs equality, inclusion, and diversity.
    Where are the e-motorcycle and side-by-side trails? Are there any even available within 15 miles of here?

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