Community Steps Up to Preserve Trails & Open Space 5

Local trails lead to outdoor adventures.

 

The Conejo Valley is home to miles of boundless beauty and acres of abundance, teeming with lush vegetation and providing plenty of close-to-home opportunities for hiking, biking and enjoying the great outdoors.

The area spanning Newbury Park to Calabasas boasts some 15,000 acres of open space, according to the Conejo Open Space Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 to protect and maintain open spaces and trails.

As early as 1966, with the acquisition of Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, community members began to establish public lands reserved for open space. Since then, 15,000 acres of open space have been preserved, including 140 miles of multi-use trails open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians alike.

“Some city officials had the foresight and decided there needs to be a buffer around the cities, an area for people to use and enjoy,” says Julia Osborn, a board member of COSF. “As properties become available, the city partners with some government agencies to purchase and preserve those pieces of land.” The ongoing acquisition of open space comprises part of the City of Thousand Oak’s five- to 10-year master plan.

It Takes a Village

When properties are acquired, that’s when COSF’s work begins. Osborn cites the recent purchase of the West Conejo Canyon area as an example, as well as the ongoing trail work at Potrero Ridge. COSF is in the process of cleaning up the trails, mulching and putting trailheads in those areas, with the help of volunteers.

Described online as “a system of deeply-eroded canyons, plateaus and ridgelines in the northwest Conejo Valley,” the Conejo Canyons Open Space totals 1,628 acres. It includes Arroyo Conejo, Western Canyon, Hill Canyon and portions of the Seventh Day Adventist property. A variety of habitats thrive in this area, and hikers will be drawn to the dramatic coastline and mountain views once the trails are completed, says Osborn.

Over at Potrero Ridge in Newbury Park, a trailhead planned at Reino Road will provide additional access to the area as well as to the Dos Vientos Open Space.

Some 200 volunteers show up every month to Trail Work Days, armed with shovels, work gloves and other supplies and ready for some “down and dirty” trail work, depending on the condition of the space.

The acquisition, preservation, fundraising and many other open space-related issues involves several local agencies, including the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee, in addition to COSF.

COSCA’s website currently lists some 40 open spaces, including the expansive Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and popular trails, such as Dos Vientos, La Jolla, Lang Ranch, Los Robles, Oak Brook Regional Park and Wildwood Regional Park.

Trailblazers

Taking advantage of the multitude of area trails are many hiking groups, trail running and outdoor clubs, among them an all-women hiking group called Wild Women Hiking.

Led by adventure guide Angeline Duran Piotrowski, the “wild women” meet twice a week to hike and explore the often strenuous switchbacks. Piotrowski cites the “fear of hiking alone” as the main factor holding women back from hiking. So the group provides hiking buddies and guidance, led by Piotrowski, an expert in the area’s lesser-known trails and important trivia and logistics, like parking and restrooms.

“Men and women approach the outdoors and hiking differently,” says Piotrowski, a Calabasas resident and mother of two. “A different pace, a different viewpoint, a different need—so that’s what I’m trying to address here.”

Dues are a very affordable $10/month and include a members-only website, roster and a chat group, according to Piotrowski. Members may register and bring an occasional guest (male or female) along for an extra $5 per guest.

On a recent hike, Piotrowski led an exploration of the Sheep Corral Loop, part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Hiking up Palo Comado Canyon, over to Shepard’s Flat, she led the ladies on a part-hike, part-historical tour of the area, pointing out antique sheep corral stands below the towering walls of the canyons.

“Sheep Corral is hands-down my favorite trail in the Conejo Valley,” says Piotrowski, a lifelong hiker and backpacker who grew up hiking in the redwoods of Northern California. “It may not be as well-traveled as the other more popular trails but it doesn’t make it less interesting.”

“The landscapes here are so varied—from rolling meadow to rocky desert,” she says of the moderate 6.5-mile trail. “It’s amazing how ranchers made these canyons their home for 150 years and we get to enjoy and explore them now.”

Owls, hawks and raptors nest amidst oak trees and sedimentary rock areas. Bobcats, coyotes, deer and rabbits also abound. A variety of native plant communities is still evident despite years of cattle-grazing, according to the National Park Service website.

The Wild Women Hiking group has also traversed the well-traveled trails of Wildwood Park as well as sections of the Backbone Trail, part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and even trails in the L.A. area. Some members have also ventured out of town and tackled longer, more strenuous hikes, such as the Rim to Rim Challenge at the Grand Canyon National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Thankfully, Conejo Valley offers a plethora of trails suitable for any level, from families with young children in strollers, to the most avid backcountry wanderer. Finding a trail near you is easy; it’s choosing which one to travel that will “make all the difference” in your journey.