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Ojai Meadows Preserve Restoration Update

By on March 3, 2014 in News, Ojai Meadows Preserve, Press

When the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) purchased the property that would become the Ojai Meadows Preserve, it was done with the shared community goals of providing relief from localized flooding, reducing storm water pollution, providing a refuge for birds and wildlife, and creating a safe public space where people could enjoy nature close to home. While purchasing the property kept it from ever being developed, the purchase alone did not fulfill the broad community vision. It was known from the beginning that a substantial effort would be required to turn the Preserve into the gem originally envisioned by the community.

Looking around the Ojai Meadows Preserve you can see that a lot of activity is underway on the open fields. This work represents the final phase of the master restoration plan prepared for the site in 2004. The open fields are currently being managed for weed control and, ultimately, their new function as native grasslands, oak woodlands, and oak savannas.  The effort will take years of precise work. The result will be more naturally functional meadows that provide improved habitat for birds and wildlife, reduce annual management costs, and create a pleasing aesthetic.

The project starts with weed management.  Before native seeds can populate the soil and successfully grow, the number of weed seeds in the soil (the seed bank) must be reduced. Options for reducing the seed bank include chemical and manual methods.  We have chosen the manual option in order to avoid use of herbicides. Mechanical work includes mowing and plowing.  Three of the fields have been plowed to increase water absorption rates and prepare the sites for mechanical mowing.  This was a one-time effort. Most of the Preserve is simply being mowed just before non-native plants go to seed. This reduces seed production of weeds and gives native seeds a relative numeric advantage.

Most of the land has been managed for weed reduction for over a year, and native seeds have now been sown throughout the Preserve. Long term plans are to use timed mowing in the spring to manipulate the seed production of non-native annual plants, giving a seed production advantage to later seeding native plants. This strategy is a numbers game, and usually takes years to accomplish.

We often get questions regarding the future of the eucalyptus grove. Implicit in the restoration plan is a bias toward native plants over non-native plants. However, the restoration plan recommends a very long-term strategy of slowly replacing the non-native eucalyptus trees with native oak trees. The effort will take decades to accomplish and will appear quite gradual.  The process will start with thinning small areas to allow more sunlight through to the new oaks and understory species being planted. This winter 1/3 of an acre (about 7% of the grove area) was thinned and new oak trees are being planted. A number of eucalyptus remain in this area, and will remain until the oaks have achieved a stature robust enough to provide the tree canopy habitats that are nominally created by eucalyptus today. It is anticipated that additional efforts will be made every few years depending on the rate of oak growth in the managed areas. Just as the wetlands brought new and more varied birds and wildlife, the long-term restoration of oak woodlands will do the same.

before 1

Ojai Meadows Preserve in 2010, prior to mustard management

The management of habitats on the Ojai Meadows Preserve has always been about improving conditions for native plants and wildlife, providing a safe public space for the enjoyment of nature, and establishing the Preserve into a self-sustaining state that is less reliant on constant management. Now that the Ojai Valley has received a welcome week of rain, seeds are germinating rapidly and the fields will soon be green with a variety of plant species.  We have also noticed that a greater variety of bird species have already moved onto the Preserve to take advantage of the filled pond and vernal pools. For those that haven’t seen the Preserve, we invite you all to take a visit and see a place that is teeming with life and beauty.

This section of the eucalyptus grove has been thinned in preparation for the first phase of replacement with native oak trees

If weeds are not managed, they expand over the entire preserve and choke out native plants. They also become a fire threat and are harder to patrol for illegal activities. Native bird utilization in these fields also drops when non-native plants overtake the Preserve. 

The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy works to protect the views, trails, water and wildlife of the Ojai Valley. Since its founding in 1987, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has permanently protected over 2,000 acres. On that land every year, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy maintains dozens of miles of trails, guides hundreds of visitors, and hosts thousands of guests—hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, school children and others. To learn more, visit

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