To Our Ojai Community:

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we recover from the damage from the Thomas Fire on our trails. In the coming months trails will likely open and close depending on rain and changing trail conditions. Click here for current information and trail notifications »


If you have visited the Ventura River Preserve in the last couple months, you may have noticed some new and enticing places to sit. Specifically, some fine, hand-crafted redwood benches. We’re at long last replacing benches lost in the Thomas Fire and installing new memorial benches too. 

One reason we love these new benches is they are a local product! Local craftsman Ryan Lang sourced the wood from a redwood tree that was being taken down here in Ojai Valley. Ryan milled the wood and was storing it on his property when the Thomas Fire burned over the valley and singed some of the wood. It is fitting that some of the new benches carry burn scars, reminding us of the fire that led us to get new benches in the first place. Crafting these benches was a labor of love for Ryan. 

Already, we’ve installed one bench in Rice Canyon, two in Wills Canyon, and one near the bridge on the Allan Jacobs Trail. A fifth bench will be going in on the ridge of the Allan Jacobs Trail in the coming weeks. These five benches represent over two tons of concrete, steel, and wood! Each bench requires a multi-day installation. Burned bench foundations must be removed, and the area prepped before a new bench can be placed. Then, at least one day is needed to dig out the base and pour concrete and another is needed to set the bench in place. 

Getting the materials and tools to the job sites was a logistical and physical challenge. To do this, our Land Steward, Linda Wilkin, led and supported dozens of volunteers, who themselves have put in around 300 hours of labor to date. It’s been challenging, but the volunteers are enjoying the experience, especially at the end when they can take a load off by sitting on the benches they installed! 

We are proud to be able to replace our old benches, made of recycled plastic, with a real wood aesthetic. This far more natural appearance sits at ease in the surrounding beauty of the preserves. In time, as the remaining plastic benches need replacing, we’ll put in new wooden benches, providing even more enjoyable seating in beautiful places. 

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