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Record crowds trash Ventura County waterfall with litter, human waste

Paradise Falls at Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks
A man jumps into the water under Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks’ Wildwood Regional Park on Thursday May 28, 2020. The Conejo Valley Open Space Conservation Agency announced they will be closing the falls to the pubic indefinitely after the scenic spot was overrun with crowds and trash.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Public access to a scenic Ventura County waterfall will be cut off starting Friday after officials said recent record crowds inundated the area with trash and human waste.

The closure of Paradise Falls in Wildwood Regional Park — located in northwestern Thousand Oaks — will be in place until further notice, according to the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency.

Agency officials said Wildwood Park had reopened for weekend use two weeks ago “with high hopes that visitors would respect the park and its natural resources.”

“While some did, record crowds broke down the sense of shared responsibility that makes safe park management and protection of the environment feasible,” officials said in a statement Wednesday.

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Conservation Agency rangers hauled multiple truckloads of trash from the area over the weekend and also discovered that some visitors had used a nearby creek as a makeshift toilet.

“Over the past two weeks, Paradise Falls attracted unprecedented crowds that behaved differently than they have in the past,” agency officials wrote in their statement. “While Paradise Falls has traditionally been a simple scenic stop on a hike through the park, recent crowds arrived by the hundreds with plans to spend hours at this sensitive spot. This resulted in environmental impacts to the land that are not sustainable.”

Similar issues have popped up throughout Southern California as cooped-up crowds have flocked to open spaces to find respite from coronavirus-related closures — at times overwhelming on-site facilities or making it impossible to observe safe social distancing.

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Crowds line the steep trail that leads to Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks' Wildwood Regional Park
Crowds line the steep trail that leads to Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks’ Wildwood Regional Park on Thursday May 28, 2020.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

The Thousand Oaks Police Department will be on hand to cite anyone who enters the Paradise Falls area once the closure is in place, the conservation agency said.

Other agency-maintained trails will remain open to the public.

“Local users are requested to find alternative destinations for now and let Paradise Falls recover,” officials said.


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