Opportunity Knocks for Amenities on the Santa Clara River in East Ventura

dosage arial,sans-serif;”>By Nina Danza

In the near future, many buildings are coming to the corner of Johnson and N. Bank Dr. in East Ventura (at the Hwy 101 exit). A project currently proposed and under review by the City of Ventura contains 300+ apartments and retail stores in the now empty lot.

Owner’s conceptual depiction of buildings at Johnson and N. Bank Dr.

Owner’s conceptual depiction of buildings at Johnson and N. Bank Dr.

The project is adjacent to the Santa Clara River but contains no amenities to integrate or acknowledge the River’s ecological value. In fact, hundreds of acres of the River in the immediate vicinity are held by The Nature Conservancy with the intent of becoming part of the future public Santa Clara River Parkway. The Nature Conservancy has been performing riparian and native plant restoration, endangered species recovery, and promoting sustainable environmental practices at this location for years. How often does a municipality have an international non-profit group gifting a huge asset to them? It’s more than puzzling that there is no city vision in the building project, it’s a major failing.

Visionary planning on this project would include some amenities consistent with The Santa Clara River Parkway at this urban-nature interface. Obvious examples include:

Multi-purpose stormwater detention basin/outdoor amphitheater. All new building projects are required to contain urban drainage from a 1 ½ year frequency storm on-site (to reduce water pollution into surface streams). In this location, the detention basin could be designed as a dry weather amphitheater used for public education nature programs, outdoor cultural festivals, or specialized sports events. Wouldn’t this be a great location to start/end a bike race or hold a bird-a-thon? Revenue from events could support the facility maintenance.

Series of educational kiosks. Public kiosks highlighting the ecology of the River in the immediate area are the MINIMUM inexpensive amenity needed in this urban-nature interface. Kiosks could explain topics such as: effects of urbanization on the environment, wealth of rare plant and animal wildlife present, surface water and ground water issues, and the connection to the region such as the estuary.

Eco-oriented commercial areas: seasonal or permanent. The project should take advantage of the adjacent existing bike path and linear park by incorporating areas reserved for small business such as a bicycle services, farm produce market or entertainment/refreshment vendors. A similar situation popped up along the LA River bike path this past year at Frogspot www.thefrogspot.org where hundreds of bike path users stopped and spent money.

Most importantly, this is the ideal time to plan and provide consistent amenities between the proposed project and the Olivas Park Dr Extension. The two locations are extremely close to each other, are both River-adjacent, and have superb potential to add value to the environmental stewardship of the area. Let’s have a non-vehicular route and Parkway-consistent amenities between the projects such as wildlife and scenic viewpoints, picnic areas, educational kiosks and more.

Sta Clara River Visionary Amenities

Sta Clara River Visionary Amenities

Opportunity is knocking for planning and providing a long-term vision on the Santa Clara River at the east end of Ventura.

Nina Danza represents Ventura Sierra Club and is a licensed civil engineer specializing in stormwater issues

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