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 VenturaBotanicalGardens.com.

“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 venturabotanicalgardens.com or contact Doug Halter at 648-4328 or Holly White at 643-0405.