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 »


My name is James Vickman. I am Chief Executive Officer of New Civilization, a California Public Benefit Non-Profit that owns an 11 acre parcel located at 10200 Creek Road, Oak View. The San Antonio Creek runs through much of the property. When New Civilization became the steward of the property in 1992, I was 32 years old. I have been visiting the property since then, for over 25 years. I’ve visited the property in all of the seasons, and I’ve seen the property go through major changes.

Every winter when I first started frequenting the property, water regularly flowed through the creek bed, even if the winter was relatively dry. In the early and mid-1990’s, I would bring our children to the property. We had easy access to all parts of the property, including to the San Antonio Creek, and as far as I was aware, there was no arundo grass on the property.  The views on the property were stunning, and the animal life–including birds, mammals, amphibians and fish–was abundant.

Then, beginning in the late 1990’s, the property started being overtaken by arundo, and within a few short years, the entire creek bed–which was several acres–became filled with dense thickets of arundo. When this happened, the creek started to dry up, until finally, in the 2000’s, especially starting around 2005, the creek barely flowed, if at all, except during major rains–all of the water stopped by the arundo grass, and then sucked into the plants.

I remember about 12 years ago visiting the property with our teenage son. We were armed with machetes, and our goal was to slash a tunnel through the arundo so we could get to the creek. We whacked away for several hours, making a three to four feet wide tunnel that was around 30 yards long, but we never reached the creek. We didn’t try again to bore our way through the arundo the next year, as the plant had simply grown back, as thick or thicker than before.

I was approached by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy a few years ago to inquire whether New Civilization would be amenable to the Conservancy entering the property to engage in a comprehensive program to both eradicate the arundo and reintroduce native plants that had been squeezed out by the arundo. I was informed that the eradication program would entail use of an herbicide, but that a comprehensive plan would be in place, with approvals and encouragement from various governmental agencies, for the safe use of the herbicide.

I readily welcomed the invitation, as I had learned first-hand, over the course of more than 20 years, of the devastation that the arundo had caused to the San Antonio creek bed, and I had come to realize that the only way to solve the problem would be for a concerned organization to administer a comprehensive eradication program that indeed did use herbicide.  I also had known of the great work of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, so when I was presented with the Conservancy’s plan to retake the creek, in all of its beauty and diversity, my decision was easy.

I have seen the property several times since the Conservancy started the arundo eradication/native plant reintroduction program. The views have been restored and the creek is flowing again. This is nothing short of a miracle. I’m sure that soon, the bird life, along with other wildlife including fish and amphibians, will return to the degree that they existed before the arundo invaded the property. I am grateful to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy for their great work in the Valley, and their great work on the New Civilization property.

 – James Vickman

Jonathan and I walked through the family property along San Antonio Creek yesterday morning. When (the OVLC) first started the project the site was completely choked and shaded by a solid stand of Arundo, making it impossible to navigate. Now after clearing the Arundo the site is more park like, with spectacular older sycamore and black walnut trees revealed alongside mature willows, and mule fat. Elderberry shrubs and poison oak damaged by the fire are stump sprouting, and hundreds of live oak and sycamore seedlings are germinating everywhere. We were delighted to find new patches of native wildflowers including gilia, lupine, and poppy and three different species of phacelia. The creek was running clear, and sunny pools of water were full of little tadpoles. Instead of silence we could hear the sounds of birds, and observed a pair of showy black and yellow hooded orioles making a nest.

We are so pleased with the changes and the new found diversity!


 – Lucy and Jonathan Tolmach

I would like to express my appreciation for the work of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. They have created some very great hiking spots in the Ojai Valley. In addition, they have been doing great work in the Ventura River and San Antonio creek with their Arundo Removal Project. The arundo sucks up more than three times the amount of water as native plants, it is a fire threat, a flooding threat, readily invades and creates dense stands where no native vegetation can grow. It is such a pleasure to ride along the bike path and see where the arundo has been cleared.

 – Scott Weiss

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