A committee of community leaders, hikers, equestrians and cyclists has come together in the first effort to link several hundred miles of trails in Ventura County.
Ventura County’s 10 cities all have trails, but they are not connected, said Ron Blakemore, a county parks department worker and the committee’s program administrator.
“We’re going to try to bridge that damn wall between cities and get things connected,” Blakemore said.
The 33-member advisory panel, headed by Ventura County Supervisors Maggie Kildee and Vicky Howard, will plan and develop regional and subregional trails in the county.
Kildee and Howard formed the panel after receiving complaints from residents clamoring for a more complete trail system.
The committee’s first meeting Wednesday was spent primarily on creating a mission statement and discussing trail issues.
Funding for linking and improving trails in Ventura County will come from a variety of sources, none of it taxes, Blakemore and Kildee said.
“There are a lot of ways to get money,” Blakemore said. “We’re applying for federal grants, state grants, and we’ll get some local money from private enterprise.”
Ross Blasman, a Newbury Park furniture designer and mountain biker, said the panel is long overdue.
Blasman said part of the reason he joined the committee is to fight for making more trails in Ventura County open to mountain bikers.
“It’s a tremendous problem,” Blasman said.
Mark Olson, a manager at Southern California Edison and president of the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, said private industry will play a key role in funding the network.
If the trails are improved and become more popular, local economy will be boosted by tourists, said Olson, a committee member.
Large companies such as his are also looking for ways to get employees to use alternate transportation, and the new network would encourage more workers to leave their cars at home, he said.
The committee is still figuring out which trails it will tend to first, Blakemore said. Most of the trails in Ventura County are in the Santa Monica Mountains, he said.
A trail along Pacific Coast Highway connecting Ventura County with Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties will probably be one of the first projects, he said.
Blakemore predicted it would take some time before residents notice an appreciable difference in trails.
“It’s going to take us one year in the planning stages,” he said. “The problem is that no one’s really looked at this whole thing as a system.”
Doug Carriger, an assistant Ventura fire chief and avid hiker, said the committee should concentrate on maintaining current trails.
“They’re becoming overgrown and impassable,” Carriger said. “I think they ought to meet on Saturday mornings, grab their shovels and saws and work on the trails that are there today.”