Garden Needs Help to Evict Invaders

Nonnative plants have invaded the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, making it difficult for some wildlife, including pond turtles and lizards, to use Conejo Creek for water and the native growth there for shelter.

Garden officials hope a Thousand Oaks City Council vote Tuesday will help alleviate the problem before it escalates. The council will decide whether to approve a $10,000 grant to fix the invaded area. If the council approves the recommendation, garden officials will have the exotic trees and plants cut down.

The 20-year-old garden's native plants include California lilacs, toyons, oaks and willows.

The plants not native to the Conejo Valley, including palm, Brazilian pepper and other exotic trees, have been around the creek and nature trail area for at least 10 years, said Barbara Song, the garden's vice president. Some of the trees are as tall as 20 feet.

Garden officials say it's necessary to remove the exotic trees because the garden is supposed to reflect the natural habitat of the area.

"It's always disturbing when you see exotic things going in any area that should be natural," Song said.

The 33-acre garden inside Conejo Community Park, at the corner of Dover and Hendrix avenues, has been a valuable resource for the community. With eight gardens, including an herb garden, a desert garden and a bird habitat garden, it has given people a scenic place to unwind and watch wildlife.

The garden has an excellent chance to receive the grant, said Scott Mitnick, deputy city manager.

"The city is very supportive of the botanic garden and what it does to promote a tiny nature preserve for the community," Mitnick said. "Having facilities like this is one thing that makes Thousand Oaks what it is. We support them when we can."

The exotic plants most likely grew near the nature trail because their seeds traveled along the creek from nearby homes when people watered their lawns, Song said.

If it receives the grant as expected, the garden will contract California Conservation Corps in Camarillo to cut down the exotic trees and plants and fix the area. The $10,000 grant will cover two weeks of the corps' work, but the corps offered to do a third week free.

"I don't think they'll get the whole thing done because it's huge and runs for quite a way," said Garry Song, treasurer of the garden. "But we hope to put a huge dent in it."

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