Category Archives: This ‘n’ That

Protect what you love: Surfrider engages and salutes community volunteers

Surfrider engages community volunteers to participate in beach cleanups.Photo provided by Surfrider

Sustainability Now News
by Maryann Ridini Spencer (@MaryannRidiniSpencer)

“Protect what you love,” is one of Surfrider Foundation’s mottos underscoring the need for every individual to take a proactive stance to preserve and protect our ocean, waves, and beaches.

Putting that motto into action, Surfrider, through a powerful activist network, engages community volunteers to participate in monthly beach cleanups to help stop contributing to the now over approximately 5.25 trillion deadly pieces of plastic in the ocean. Their Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) program, which teaches CPR — conservation, permeability, and retention, is also a vital, growing contribution to aid in the health of our watersheds.

Other programs include a Blue Water Task Force, a volunteer-run water testing, education, and advocacy program that alerts citizens and officials about water quality programs whereby they can work together toward solutions. The Smartfin project allows surfers to become citizen scientists, turning wave sets into data when surfers wear a fin with sensors that measure important ocean properties.

“Ocean Friendly Restaurants, is one of our newer programs that is focused on reducing our plastic and water footprint,” said Bill Hickman, Southern California Regional Manager, Surfrider. “Volunteers help assist in educating restaurant owners how to make more sustainable choices by eliminating expanded polystyrene use (Styrofoam), recycling practices, using reusable tableware, no plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders, and providing straws and utensils for takeout only upon request.”

To promote community engagement and rally support, Surfrider holds monthly chapter meetings open to anyone who wishes to attend. “We listen to guest speakers who are experts in their fields talk about subjects vital to our mission as well as discuss chapter news,” said Hickman. “It’s a casual, social atmosphere and we provide light snacks and drinks.

At Surfrider’s December 4th Chapter meeting, the foundation held their second annual “Volunteer Appreciation” Recognition Ceremony where they presented 40 volunteers with certificates and a personalized thank you gift.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization, and we felt it important to honor those that go above and beyond,” said Hickman. “Our coast always needs protection. Our volunteers are the protectors. They are also essential in getting our voice and mission heard. More volunteers translate into more voice, and that voice is needed, especially when it comes to making a difference by crafting legislation to protect what we love.”

Surfrider holds Monthly Chapter meetings in Patagonia’s retail store, 235 W Santa Clara Street in Downtown Ventura the first Tuesday of most months from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. For more information on Surfrider and our calendar of events, visit:


New discovery in the story of the Lone Woman

During a special lecture on Thursday, December 13, a panel of researchers will reveal new information about why the Lone Woman remained on San Nicolas Island after others in her community left for the mainland.

Depicted in the best-selling children’s novel Island of the Blue Dolphins, the story of the Lone Woman is based on the true story of a Native American woman who was left alone on San Nicolas Island from 1835 to 1853.

Steven Schwartz, Dr. John Johnson, Susan Morris and Carol Peterson have examined new evidence revealing that the Lone Woman stayed on the island to take care of her son, who had remained behind. She lived with him for a number of years before he was tragically killed in a boating accident, after which she was truly alone.

Contrary to previous belief, it is now understood that when the Lone Woman was brought to the mainland there were native speakers in Santa Barbara who were able to effectively communicate with her through spoken word. She shared with them why she chose to stay on the island as the others left.

Steven J. Schwartz, recently retired, was the Navy’s senior archaeologist on San Nicolas Island for 25 years. Due to this unique position, he has become one of the leading experts on the Lone Woman’s story, publishing and speaking on this topic at numerous venues.

Dr. John R. Johnson has served as Curator of Anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for thirty years. He obtained his Ph.D. at UCSB where he holds an appointment as Adjunct Professor of Anthropology. His written contributions include more than 80 studies of the culture and history of California’s native peoples, especially emphasizing the Chumash Indians of the Santa Barbara region.

Susan L. Morris is an independent historical researcher and writer. She has worked on 7 of the 8 Channel Islands (including San Nicolas Island) on archaeology, paleontology, geology, and biology projects. For the past eight years, Morris has focused her research on the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, contributing content to the new National Park Service Island of the Blue Dolphins website.

Carol Peterson was the education coordinator at Channel Islands National Park for 16 years and was the main project coordinator for the Island of the Blue Dolphins website. Since her retirement, she has continued to coordinate this project as a volunteer and is responsible for posting all content on the website.

The talk is sponsored by Channel Islands National Park to further the understanding of current research on the Channel Islands and surrounding marine waters. The lecture will take place at 7:00 pm at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, in Ventura Harbor. The program is free and open to the public.

This lecture can also be viewed live online, at: Shore to Sea lecture series.

Lectures are recorded and posted at:

The Island of the Blue Dolphins website is located at:

REMEMBERING ~ Flames of Compassion

Remember the Fire ~ Flames of Compassion

by Karen Leslie, writer with heart

The fire and brimstone atmosphere that raged through California scorched not only land but has wreaked havoc with our psyches and emotional state of being. The aftermath and collective mourning of precious lives lost, houses and earthscapes are palatable. Venturian’s memories not long passed have re-kindled in the air thick as smoke.

On November 8, 2018 three fires broke out. The Hill Fire, Woolsey and Camp Fires combined scorching nearly 250,000 acres, displaced thousands, claimed more than 80 lives, destroyed 14,000 structures, 993 people are unaccounted for and it took 6,400 firefighters round the clock to slay the beasts. The 18-day Woolsey Fire alone impacted Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Chatsworth, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Malibu, torching 96, 949 acres.

Barely holding back tears, Paradise Town Council Member Melissa Schuster shares, “The entire town of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now.” Paradise Hero, Kevin McKay drove 22 stranded elementary school students to safety

Affected was the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills known as “Western Town” where hundreds of movies and television shows, including HBO’s Westworld have been filmed. Amidst the devastation and tragedy heroes have emerged.

Hollywood Stuntman Ardeshir Radpour saved 300 horses from the Woolsey wildfires, but he doesn’t consider himself a hero. Radpour shares, “The horses feel what we feel and have a heightened sense of awareness. They don’t understand the noise and don’t have a voice for themselves. It’s just what we need to do as human beings to help each other out.”

Hearts are swollen with despair and aching from the abundant suffering in our own back yards, neighboring counties and globally. Yet, all walks of life are united and ignited with the flame of compassion! We have walked in their shoes, lost what they have lost and felt what they have felt.

From the many caring residents, business owners and heroes, their light of empathy burns brightly, snuffing out the fear with their generous optimism, support and helping hands of service so ultimately we can find healing within the unimaginable loss.

Sharon Campbell

Local intuitive artist Sharon Camphell shares, “One candle can light up a whole room. It costs nothing to smile, say hello and make amends with people you love. We do adapt and we are stronger than we think.”

Tim Callaghan

Tim Callaghan, founder and owner of No Limit Fitness, well-traveled and Veteran shares, “As a one year resident of Ventura, I have noticed in the wake of disaster, the hearts of this area are connected in a way where strangers are neighbors and neighbors are family.”

“Mo” owner of Silver Trends says, “We will never forget. With help comes change. Consoling with one another helps make our lives a little better. Our mentality and perspective needs to change from me me me, to we we we. “

Ayn Devera

Owner of Inner Soulstice Wellness Ayn Devera quotes, “When our energies are aligned we can produce anything. We must connect, share how we feel, lean in towards the discomfort, then we can empathize and from that space of commonality that we are the same creates change.”

Tina Thayer

Tina Thayer owner of Paradise Pantry shares her feelings and people that arrived devastated and disheveled into the hearth and home vibe café, “I am trying to process the sadness and feel heartbroken for all the loss and happy to serve the weary travelers so they may rest, drop their shoulders and eat a meal.”

Anna Bermudez

Anna Bermudez, Ventura Museum curator quotes, “Preserve the history of Now” “Along with our exhibits, the museum has come to be so much more, a public community gathering place where people feel safe to reflect, remember and heal ”

Musician and icon Neil Young who lost his home speaks out, “Hopefully we can come together as a people to take climate change on!”

Each of us has value in the lives around us! Shine on!


The Thomas Fire

by Patrick J. Treacy

The Thomas Fire started on the Fourth of December two thousand seventeen. It became the largest Venturans ever had seen.

The Santa Ana winds were hot and strong, and swiftly moved the fire along.

Soon the canyons roared as trees buckled and swayed, houses were burning and crashing down and soon in piles of rubble lay.

Embers and cinders were flying hundreds of feet in the air, then raining down like thunder, showers of red hail, spreading the fire at a speed that was rare.

One lady died in her haste to get away, as thousands were ordered to evacuate and were rushing to centers where they would be safe.

The famous Poinsettia Pavilion was about to succumb to the flames. Its caretakers Hector Andrade, Joanna Bondina, and Hector Junior, their son, decided to stay. They battled all night and all of next day, ignoring the burns and the blisters. They battled with hoses and shovels and spades, as the soles of their shoes partly melted away.

And that is the stuff of which heroes are made. The prize for their efforts-the Poinsettia Pavilion was ready for business next day.

The inferno on the mountain was a ferocious sight,

It looked more like a day time invasion of bombs and smoke

than a mountain fire on a winter’s night.

The billowing smoke was a crazy red,

And nerves were shaken with fear and dread.

Animals were seen on the city streets hopping with pain on tender feet.

It was a challenging night for the elder, the weak and the frail. Their young caregivers seemed anxious, nervous and pale.

Years of collections were lost on that night, Like old photos of grandparents holding their kids. Some lost photos of ancestors returning triumphant from war, While others lost photos of loved ones returning in caskets draped with old glory after giving their all.

Firefighter Cory Iverson died doing what he and all firefighters and police officers

do every day, risking their lives, others to save.

This young patriot died for the love of his family and commitments in life

He conquered his fear and died while on duty fighting the fire.

The Thomas Fire burned for forty days.

It caused death and destruction along the way. Property worth billions of dollars were lost to the flames.

The brush and the fuel will grow back again. The Santa Ana winds will always return. Without new regulation, when conditions are right, more houses will burn.

Keep it simple- remove all the brush, dead wood and dry fuel

a safe distance from homes then the fire cannot feed.

Update the homes in the forest to be resistant to heat,

then all wildfire tragedies in Ventura and California will all disappear.

With all of the agencies working as one,

soon Ventura will all be restored, this beautiful city between mountains and shores.

Many Thomas Fire survivors lost all their priceless belongings.

They have all disappeared like the smoke in the air and the glow in the sky.

Leaving an ache in their heart until the day they will die.

REMEMBERING ~ Serra Cross Park

On a beautiful Sunday, Dec.2 a dedication was held at Serra Cross Park located in Grant Park to celebrate the repairs made after the Thomas Fire destroyed the area. It featured great jazz by the Cabrillo Middle School Jazz Band and welcomes by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere, Chief of Police Ken Corney, Fire Chief David Endaya and others. Citycouncil Member Christy Weir was the moderator and Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann was there to greet those attending as were other dignitaries. Fr. Tom Elewaut from the Mission San Buenaventura gave a blessing to the Park. Several painting by local artists were bid on at the silent auction to raise money for upkeep. New landscaping, and grass made the area look as good as it did prior to the Thomas Fire. Even though the area is now usable Grant Park remains closed, but, by reservation Serra Cross is available for private events.

The Serra Cross Conservancy encourages everyone to enjoy the park and welcomes events ranging from family picnics to educational field trips to weddings and memorial services. The site, with its unique character and spectacular views, is very popular for private events. If you are interested in holding your event at the Cross contact Amber Weir at

Serra Cross


Ventura Audubon Society December Program and Field Trips

December 11, 2018 Program 7:30 p.m. Tuesday – Poinsettia Pavillion, 3451 Foothill Road, Ventura. Sea of Grass, Sea of Ice: How Will 2 Iconic Arctic Birds Navigate a Warming Climate….

with Karen Laing

We will explore the natural history and conservation status of the emperor goose and spectacled eider, two birds that live year-round in Alaska and Siberia. How will their dependence on high latitudes affect their ability to thrive as the Arctic rapidly warms?

Karen Laing grew up in Ventura and Santa Barbara. She was a wildlife biologist in Alaska for more than 30 years, working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. Since returning to Ventura Karen has been active in VAS by leading field trips among other things.

December 2018 Field Trips

December 9, 2018 8:30 a.m. Lake Casitas. Leader: Adele Fergusson 805-415-4304

Join us for a walk by the lake, we will be looking for hummingbirds, grosbeaks, gnatcatchers as well as ducks, geese and waterfowl. Hopefully we will see a Bald Eagle.

December 13, 2018 8:30 a.m. Ventura Settling Ponds. Leader: Adele Fergusson 805-415-4304

Enjoy a morning of mostly waterfowl birding. Spotting scopes are always welcome.

December 22, 8:30 a.m. Camino Real. Leader: Raeann Koerner 805-701-1919

Camino Real is a grassy park surrounded by pines and eucalyptus and is an excellent place to see birds. Target birds will include Red Shouldered Hawk, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and Townsend’s Warbler.

December 29, 2018 8:30 a.m. Carpinteria Salt Marsh. Leader: Corine Barksdale 805-535-5173

The Salt Marsh Reserve on Ash Ave. is an excellent birding location due to the estuary, wetlands and upland habitats. Special birds of concern can be found here, including Belding’s Savannah Sparrow and Clapper Rail.

REMEMBERING ~ Thomas Fire One Year Later

by  Responsible and Efficient Government (VREG)

In the weeks that followed the devastating Thomas Fire, several community meetings were held throughout Ventura. These meetings showed a united front of total cooperation and support of all City departments, County of Ventura, State of California, Cal Fire and every other state and local agency present. They committed to protecting our health and welfare.

There are hundreds of stories of the heroic efforts by individuals going above and beyond. This article is not intended to repeat the great deeds done. Ventura now needs to address the problems that became very apparent after the Thomas Fire.

One year into this rebuilding process Ventura reports that there are no families back in their homes November 29, 2018, 133 homes are approved for a complete rebuild, 410 repair permits issued, 135 rebuilt homes currently under plan check review and the city anticipates that four families will be back in their homes within the next month.

For some, this news will seem alarming. To others, this is not a surprise.

What was fact and what was rumor was challenging to sort out when it came to building guidelines, permits and plan approvals.

Sometimes doing too much can be as bad as doing too little

At one point, the Ventura City Council encouraged a fast, streamline rebuilding process which included ’homeowners would be able to rebuild and replace what they had. This became a misleading promise because few homeowners had plans on file.

Problems occurred when the City Council attempted to streamline the process. In order to to comply with the City Council’s desire to simplify the process, the city staff waived the need for a Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Report for units less than 3,000 sq. ft. There was also public pressure to change height limits by many residences. Depending on where a homeowner was in the process of planning and design, confusion followed.

Some changes created the situations that some rebuilding projects were no longer in compliance. Any changes would likely cost homeowners’ time and money. This was contrary to the City Councils intent to streamline the process. For folks who just want to get past the nightmare and get back into their home, this became a cruel and harsh procedure.

The bottom line was that the professionals (planners, architects, and contractors) needed to be the ones to create this process. To build and occupy a custom home in one year is almost unheard of under the best of conditions.

More issues that need to be addressed

More issues need to be addressed and the sooner, the better. The November 2018 wildfires reminded Venturans that we remain vulnerable. The city needs to answer these questions:

What are the plans for more gravity flow storage water tanks for the hillside above Ventura?

What will it take to get working water pump generators working for better fire protection?

What is being done to address the lack of a better evacuation plan for the Ventura Avenue and hillside residences?

How many more firebreak roads will the city finish before the next fire threat?

Where was the local radio station that was to help direct the community on where to go and what was happening?

REMEMBERING ~ City Memorial Ceremony

On Monday, December 3, the City of Ventura held a ceremony in observance of the one-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire. The ceremony was held on the front steps of Ventura City Hall proceeding the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Comments were made by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere and Fire Chief David Endaya, followed by a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives. Traditional bagpipe music was played by the Ventura City Firefighters Pipes & Drums Corps. Handheld battery candles were held to show support and reflect the strength of our community.

Remembering the Fire ~ City Memorial Ceremony

Thomas Fire homeowners have understandable anxiety


by Bruce Labins Architect

We have a deep admiration for our Thomas Fire clients’ strength, patience, and positivity throughout the design, permitting, and rebuild process. They have had the hardest of years, but in every instance have embraced the ‘new vision’ of their home and are looking forward.

Thomas Fire homeowners have understandable anxiety about rebuilding and meeting zoning ordinances, regulations, code upgrades, time delays and more. In every case, our clients have been able to rebuild not only what they had, but make significant improvements to design, life safety, and energy efficiency of their home. City Planning and Building and Safety worked diligently to make these accommodations. That’s our City.

City of Ventura Community Development Director, Jeffrey Lambert, partnered with his network of city planners and local design professionals to create the Planning Pre-Review submittal process. This significantly streamlines their review process upon submittal to plan check. With thorough preparation of submittal exhibits, our experience with the process and professionals involved has been 100% positive. That’s our City.

City of Ventura Building Official, Yolanda Bundy, is likely the first building authority a Thomas Fire homeowner will meet. When we submit our drawings to plan check, Yolanda greets each of our clients with a direct look in their eyes, asking them how they are doing and reassuring them that the City will make the process smooth and timely. She gives each homeowner a thoughtful touch on the arm or a hug. That’s our City.

Yolanda Bundy initiated with her team of plan checkers a Thomas Fire expedited plan check procedure. She established a 14-day plan check turn around. Her Team have met or reduced that time in our numerous plan checks. During our re-submittal, Yolanda has personally reviewed our drawings on the spot to further expedite the permit. That’s our City.

The Thomas Fire was unprecedented for Ventura. Our City has rallied and extended themselves in every department. They have worked incredibly hard with dedication, professionalism, and thoughtfulness. We are grateful to each of them.