BG Doug Halter (far right) and volunteers broke ground to begin the Ventura Botanical Gardens’ first trail. To help fund the estimated $150,000, mile-long Demonstration Trail, the group has launched a fundraising campaign that allows sponsors to donate $50 per foot.

Putting the best foot forward

Ventura Botanical Gardens breaks ground

By Danielle Brubaker 07/12/2012

Ventura Botanical Gardens organization has achieved a major milestone. The first shovel has officially broken the ground for the new Demonstration Trail, mapped out to start from behind City Hall and continue all the way up the hill to Grant Park. The trail will be a mile long and will be a great way for people to exercise at lunch time or see beautiful views of Ventura. For the past six years, a group of dedicated volunteers have been working toward the idea of a botanical garden that would showcase the grandeur of nature along the Ventura coast.

 As their plans for the garden began to grow, so did their organization. There are currently more than 1,000 members and 400 volunteers. In 2009, after much discussion and investigation, the organization chose Grant Park as the site for the gardens due to the park’s spectacular and breathtaking view of California coastline, mountains and lush agricultural fields.

“Grant Park should be our Golden Gate Park,” said Doug Halter, chairman of the Ventura Botanical Gardens. “This is our chance to make a difference and leave a legacy in our community, and to make it have the best quality of life.”

The trail and the future botanical gardens will comprise 107 acres of Grant Park. Made of decomposed granite and hand-built stone walls, the Demonstration Trail will have vista points along the way for hikers to rest and enjoy the scenery, as well as handicapped-accessible areas.

“Since the design of the gardens and the actual implementation of those designs would take some time, we decided to at least get a trail in place, and do something to show the city of Ventura our vision for Grant Park,” Ventura Botanical Gardens Vice President Martha Picciotti said.

Until now, the necessary funds have not been available. The cost of the trail is estimated at around $150,000, and completion for early fall. In order to raise funds for this huge endeavor, the Ventura Botanical Gardens organization has developed a campaign called Foot by Foot, whereby people can donate to the project by sponsoring as many feet of the trail as they want, at the price of $50 per foot. The public is invited to participate in this fundraising campaign. Donors will be listed on the website and, at a later date, on the trail itself. Donations can be made at

“Like others here, I am a native of Ventura and I remember coming up here as a kid and exploring all around this area. I always thought it was a shame that such a beautiful natural space was just being left as an empty hillside,” Mayor Mike Tracy said. “But now that we have plans to create botanical gardens, I have faith that tremendous things will happen on this mountain.”

This project, along with the Botanical Gardens plan, will require a combination of selfless donors and volunteer elbow grease. Luckily, Ventura has no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers.

“It’s a huge undertaking, but with the support of the community, we can make it happen,” board member Holly White said. “This is a really big deal for us and for the city of Ventura as well.”

The mayor, along with all of the other board members, is optimistic about this project.

“On behalf of the entire Council, I just want to say thank you to all of the volunteers and board members who made this happen. Onward and upward. We’re going to make this a reality,” Tracy said.

In regard to the future botanical gardens that will surround the Demonstration Trail, the organization also envisions recreational and public gathering areas and interpretive and educational activities for people of all ages and abilities. Five extensive Mediterranean climate-zone gardens, all connected, are also planned to be implemented in the landscape. The organization’s mission is to “create and maintain public gardens for the preservation, education, cultural contribution, and enhancement of the entire community. 

For more information, visit or contact Doug Halter at 648-4328 or Holly White at 643-0405.


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An empty hillside? This empty hillside is home to rabbit, fox, owl, bobcat, deer, hawk, scrub jay, lizard, snake, etc. (all of which I've personally seen living, hunting or foraging within 20 yards of where your trail is being cut). The botanical garden is going to take away from the beautiful natural environment and minimize the open space for native animals. The trail is going to increase human impact on the tiny bit of natural environment left near downtown. I'm not suggesting you stop your plans, but take a look at all the fast food trash, cigarette butts, used condoms, alcohol containers along the road up to the cross. I just suggest we be realistic and not pretend that this botanical garden and trail will be "good" for the environment. I enjoy a nice botanical garden, and I know that development happens, but let's call it what it is... the elimination of native animal habitat for human "benefit." At least the city will be able to take down those mountain lion warning signs. Keep in mind, Ventura is a gem of the California coast not primarily because of how it's been developed, but because much of the surrounding area has not been developed. It's too bad the value of what we leave alone is so difficult to understand.

All that being said, in the spirit of what's best for the community... I respect the VBG organization for having a dream and getting the support and resources together to make it happen. I hope the project goes well and I look forward to seeing/walking the garden and trail.

posted by d on 7/18/12 @ 06:54 a.m.

"I always thought it was a shame that such a beautiful natural space was just being left as an empty hillside."

Sorry... This is the one quote that I think best illustrates the difference between those who understand and respect nature, and those who do not.

posted by d on 7/18/12 @ 08:03 a.m.
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