The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy announced today that it has been awarded a $1 million grant from the California Natural Resources Agency to purchase roughly 300 acres of the 2,123-acre Walker-Hearne Ranch property. The land, located directly east of the Clearpoint residential community in East Ventura, represents the first purchase of hillside land for the 12-year-old land trust. It includes oak woodland, riparian and coastal sage habitat types and stunning views of the Channel Islands and Santa Clara River valley. The grant, awarded through CNRA’s Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program, serves to mitigate some of the environmental impacts to coastal sage scrub and riparian habitats associated with the U.S. Highway 101 widening project along the Rincon.
The Conservancy formed in 2003 to preserve the hillsides, canyons and open spaces that contribute to the unique character and natural environment of the Ventura region. While the Conservancy has acquired seven properties totaling over 26 acres of land in the Ventura River watershed, this grant represents its largest acquisition to date.
“I am very pleased that the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy has received critical funding that will go toward the acquisition and preservation of more than 1,700 acres in western Ventura County” said State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “This will preserve wetlands and wildlife habitat, provide nature trails for our residents, and protect this land for generations to come.”
“This million-dollar grant from the State recognizes the importance of preserving the Ventura Hillsides and reflects the strength and capacity of the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy,” said Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, District 1. “This is a keystone acquisition which will hopefully be the first of many to preserve the Ventura Hillsides and open them for public recreation. All of the Board members and supporters of the Hillsides Conservancy deserve our thanks and congratulations for bringing our community to this historic point.”
"The Walker-Hearne Ranch is owned by the eight great grandchildren of William Sexton, who, along with his brother Joseph, purchased the land grant property in 1883,” said David Hadlen, managing partner of the property. (It was Joseph who planted the 13 eucalyptus trees above Ventura in 1898.) “After working closely with the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy and talking to members of the Ventura community over the past three and a half years, the family and the Conservancy have discussed a balanced plan for the future of the Walker-Hearne Ranch. The initial sale of approximately 300 acres to the Conservancy is a solid first step toward the goal of a much broader Conservancy ownership and/or management, and one that provides access to the public."
“We are delighted that this purchase enables us to begin implementing our vision for preserving the hillsides for the benefit of our community, which has been VHC’s mission since its inception,” said David Comden, president of the Conservancy.
Derek Poultney, Conservation Manager: “We expect escrow to close later this year and we’ll continue working on obtaining additional funding sources to purchase more acreage. The Conservancy has been working on conserving the property since December 2011 and we’re looking forward to achieving our project goals over the next few years.
“The sale of roughly 300 acres to VHC and represents a good first step toward our goal of a much larger preservation area managed by VHC and ultimately accessible by the public,” he said.
The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy is dedicated to permanently preserving the hillsides, canyons and open space that contribute to the unique character and natural environment of the Ventura region. Contributions to the Conservancy are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law. Additional information about the Conservancy is available at www.venturahillsides.org.
Disclosure: David Comden is the publisher of the VCReporter.