Ventura Land Trust holds ribbon cutting ceremony at Harmon Canyon Preserve

Organizers of the event hope to raise an additional $1 million dollars.

by Richard Lieberman

In an effort to raise an additional $1 million for the Harmon Canyon Preserve the Ventura Land Trust held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Harmon Canyon Preserve, located off Kimball and Foothill roads on Earth Day, April 22. The preserve covers an area of 2,100 acres of Ventura hillsides.

Recently the final phase of fundraising for the Harmon Canyon Preserve was conducted by the non-profit Ventura Land Trust. The trust held a kickoff for the campaign with the ribbon cutting ceremony featuring local officials.

Organizers of the event hope to raise an additional $1 million dollars. The funding will go toward maintaining plant life, establishment of new oak trees, and the creation and maintenance of new trails.

The anticipated funds will also be used to remove invasive species like the wild mustard that has invaded the habitat and is growing throughout the canyon. The funds will also be used to clear out downed branches.

The Ventura Land Trust’s goals are to keep the trails open, operating, and available to the public permanently.

“We recognize that is a big promise but it’s something we are committed to for the people of our community and the wildlife,” said Mellissa Baffa Ventura Land Trust executive director. She added “$10.6 million has been raised for the preserve so far. The money comes from a mix of government and foundation grants as well as private doners.”

Harmon Canyon Preserve was opened to the public in June 2020 said Leslie Velez, outreach director for the Ventura Land Trust. From the 1800’s through June 2020, the property had been privately owned, she said.

“The canyon preserve designated for habitat conservation and public access, has been attracting 65,000, people a year since its opening for biking, hiking, and recreation,” Baffa said. “It’s our hope and anticipation that some of those tens of thousands of people that have fallen in love with this space will join the campaign and help to support it”.

Harmon Canyon Preserve is a living laboratory, teaching participants how to identify plants and animals and facilitating hands-on fieldwork projects. Hundreds of volunteers work hand in hand with Ventura Land Trust in the stewardship of Harmon Canyon Preserve each year building trails, removing invasive plant species, and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors.

The history of the canyon dates back to its original habitants, the Chumash. A Chumash speaker, elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, tribal chair of the Barbareno/Ventureno Band of Mission Indians said, “opening the space was important. We lost a lot through colonization of our people. So, we are coming back to that. We are reconnecting that relationship that Indigenous peoples have to this earth and to this land,” Tumamait-Stenslie said.

Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava remarked” the preserve offers Spanish-language signs that help make it accessible and inviting for all communities.”

“I know that Harmon Canyon also offers Spanish language tours so that people who maybe never thought of themselves as hikers or mountain bikers or preservationists can have access to this place and see how beautiful it is and want to come back,” said Rubalcava.

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