Friends of the Ventura River: a dedicated coalition ensuring our community’s sustainability

More than half of the Ventura River watershed land area is undeveloped. Photo by Kathy Bremer

Sustainability Now News
by Maryann Ridini Spencer (@MaryannRidiniSpencer)

The Ventura River watershed, made up of the Santa Ynez Mountains, chaparral, and the cities of Ojai and Ventura, is comprised of approximately 226 square miles with mountains and foothills ranging from 6,010 feet to sea level. Located within this watershed is the Ventura River, which flows about 16.2 miles from the confluence of Matilija Creek and North Fork Matilija Creek to the Ventura River Estuary at the Pacific Ocean.

For the community, the fact that more than half of the Ventura River watershed land area is undeveloped and protected terrain holds a special meaning for residents and visitors alike. The beautiful, wide open spaces and cherished vistas of this natural habitat afford people living in city neighborhoods a chance to connect to the native, rural environment.

In 1972, biologist Mark Capelli, who sought to restore the steelhead to the Ventura River, founded Friends of the Ventura River (“Friends”), an organization which has since evolved into a coalition of individuals, government entities and community groups who have joined together to protect and enhance the Ventura River watershed to ensure quality of life, recreational access and the future sustainability of the area. The group is comprised of non-profits, local, federal and state agencies, community groups, businesses, and individuals. It currently meets irregularly to share ideas, projects & discuss potential solutions to problematic issues.

Friend’s efforts to express the community’s appreciation for the River and surrounding land led to a National Park Service Technical grant from the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. The grant allowed Friends to develop a trail map and led to the formation of the Ventura River Parkway Trail (which includes the Ventura River Trail and the Ojai Valley Trail). On June 7, 2014, the trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail. (

“The dedication, hands down, was one of our biggest accomplishments to date, and accompanied the cooperative efforts of the Ventura Land Trust, the City, and County of Ventura, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, and others who worked diligently to remove trash and arundo from the Ventura River,” said Kathy Bremer, Secretary. “There are roughly a little over 1200 trails designated as national recreation trails. People love to walk, hike, cycle, and bird watch along the Parkway and adjacent land trust trails and research shows how essential it is for our overall health to have a place in nature where we can get-away and immerse ourselves for a time.”

Brainstorming within the community to discuss concerns and pool resources and contacts is another vital aspect of Friends.

“The Ventura River Parkway has long had a problem with trash and human waste,” said Bremer. “So, when our group meets, we tackle issues like this, and we work together about what we can do to remedy issues that impact on our water quality. We essentially come together share information, find out who’s doing what, what concerns there are, and we work to find solutions together.”

Since its founding, community leaders such as Patagonia’s Founder Yvon Chouinard got involved, and today, Friends of the Ventura River also partners with organizations like the Ventura Land Trust, California State Parks, Surfrider, the Sierra Club, SOAR, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Ventura Watershed Council, Wishtoyo Foundation, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and other organizations (full list is available at

Through the Friends of the Ventura River quarterly newsletter, community news and information is distributed alerting the public about a myriad of activities including River and Beach Clean-ups, water happenings and events, watershed studies, city initiatives and programs, and more.

“We encourage the public to get involved with our mission and to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on work in the watershed, community meetings, events & volunteer opportunities. Every individual makes a difference when it comes to ensuring the longevity and sustainability of the natural areas surrounding our beautiful community,” said Bremer.

To view a Ventura River Parkway map, join the mailing list, and find out about upcoming community events, Visit:

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