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Property Donation Among Largest One-time Gifts to the OVLC

By on October 22, 2018 in Around Our Valley, Featured, News

In August 2018, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy received one of its largest gifts ever with a donation of property in the City of Ojai. The property, appraised at $515,000, is an undeveloped one-acre parcel in an Ojai neighborhood that was donated with the intention that it be sold to generate funds to support local land conservation. The story of this generous donation started decades ago with a prominent local conservationist and ends with a contribution that will ensure the permanence of open space in the Ojai Valley.

Ojai was not always the community it is today that eschews large scale development in favor of protecting agricultural lands and stunning open spaces. Rather, it was the frequent target of land-use proposals that threatened to despoil the valley as we know it today. That was, until Patricia “Pat” Weinberger and her husband Larry moved to Ojai in 1967. Dismayed by expansive efforts to develop the Ojai Valley’s natural resources, replace agricultural lands with shopping centers, build a freeway through the valley, and build housing subdivisions and golf courses at Lake Casitas, Pat got to work mobilizing the community. She eventually recruited over 700 citizens to join Citizens to Preserve the Ojai, and later formed the Ventura County Environmental Coalition. She also served on the OVLC’s former Advisory Council.

As an advocate for Ojai’s local environment, she successfully fought off efforts to locate an open-pit phosphate mine in the Sespe drainage that would have generated 75 trucks a day passing through town. She went so far as to purchase stock in U.S. Gypsum, the mine proponent, so she could address the proposed project at their shareholders meetings. She was also involved in preserving the wetlands at Ormond Beach and the creation of the Teague Memorial Watershed consisting of 3,500 acres near Lake Casitas.

Pat passed away in 2016, at the age of 93, but her efforts are often credited with keeping the Ojai Valley the idyllic place it continues to be today.

Johnny Johnston was a long-time friend of Pat Weinberger and has many stories to tell of her determination and the impact she had on the Ojai Valley. Upon Pat’s passing, he managed her affairs and came into possession of the undeveloped parcel of land adjacent to Pat’s old house. He felt it would be fitting of Pat’s legacy to donate the property to the OVLC in honor of her commitment to environmental protection.

“Kitty and I wish to honor and perpetuate the work of conservation giants like Pat Weinberger and John Broesamle who followed her and the many unsung heroes who do their part to preserve The Ojai,” says Johnny Johnston. “We chose to donate the land to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy because this extraordinary organization has a proven record of acquiring, protecting, and maintaining open space in our community for the generations of today and of tomorrow.”

“The OVLC is proud to be the recipient of this substantial gift on behalf of the communities of the Ojai Valley. The Johnston’s could have done anything with the property, but they chose to dedicate it to the protection of open space. We think that is something very special,” says Roger Essick, President of the OVLC Board of Directors.

“A gift of this magnitude will make a significant impact for the OVLC,” says Brian Stark, Executive Director of the OVLC. “We have always depended on our community to support local conservation today and into the future. Significant gifts of land and other bequests are essential to building the reserves and endowment funds to steward our preserves forever. These gifts also provide opportunities to react quickly to conservation opportunities. We are beyond grateful for the Johnston’s donation and Pat’s conservation leadership.”

In addition to contributions made to realize financial resources, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has also received gifts of land that are held for conservation purposes. The largest conservation-land donation was made in 1997 by the Ilvento Family to create the Ilvento Preserve adjacent to Thacher School. Other notable land donations include a conservation easement donated by John and Ginger Wilson, the San Antonio Creek Preserve donated by Betty McCurley, and contributions from Don and Sheila Cluff to create Cluff Vista Park.

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There Are 6 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Carolyn Vondriska says:

    What a fine example of selfless philanthropy in the Ojai Valley. May this donation encourage others to consider the same. This is how we best save this marvelous valley for the generations of today and tomorrow. Bravo to the OVLC, and to generous environmental stewards.

  2. Margaret L Ringnalda says:

    What a wonderful gift! make sure her family knows how much it is appreciated! I to hope to leave something, someday to help protect this beautiful land. I will before I pass when I win the next big lotto!

  3. Unwilling to provide name Hope you post this comment says:

    What an out right lie and total BS! The donation to the Trust from Our City Manager was a great tax write off for Johnny. The land will be sold to a developer to put $500K in the trust not to protect “Open Space” as Pat intended. Undoubtedly the new owner of the property will build a trophy home on land that should have been protected.The Board of the OVLC should be ashamed of this decision and be transparent with our community or get the heck off the Board for betraying the Community. I have been a supporter since the formation of the Trust and have many friends and neighbors active with OVLC. I believed they always had the best intentions for our Valley. This is a terrible decision and I’m appalled the Board choose to send out this “Good News Letter” congratulating themselves, our City Manager and mixing in the names of great Ojai citizens that have made a huge impact on the quality of life for our Valley. If it’s not too late I urge the Board to not sell this land as a “Real Tribute “ to Pat. She was a wonderful person,thoughtful,generous and sorry to say is probably rolling over in her grave!

  4. Linda Chaloupsky says:

    What an amazing woman. Hopefully more people will be inspired to emulate her.