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 »

Thomas Fire Updates

Until further notice, the Ilvento Preserve is closed. On the Ventura River Preserve Chaparral Crest Trail is closed. The bridge at the start of Rice Canyon is burned and there is no access to the canyon form the Orange Grove Trail, nor outlet through Rice Canyon from Wills Canyon. All Forest Service trails remain closed.

For your protection and the safety of others, please respect trail closure signs do not enter preserves when posted. Thank you for your assistance and understanding.

Update: Tuesday 1/16/18

Wills Canyon Trail is back open to hikers. The field crew spent the day clearing a large tree blocking the trail.

The trail is not yet open to bikes and horses as there is hazardous culvert that needs to be repaired. The more people ride over it the more damage it will incur, so we ask you please not to ride the canyon just yet.

Just a reminder please stay out of the canal and off the Casitas Road – these are not public access areas.

 

Update: Friday 1/12/18

Unfortunately due to hazardous trees falling unexpectedly and blocking pathways, the trails west of the Ventura River are closed until further notice. We are sorry for the inconvenience and we hope to have the trails open sometime next week.

Update: Friday 1/12/18

A dedicated group of volunteers worked tirelessly yesterday to open the Valley View and Ventura River Preserve trails Thursday. The Field Crew will finish clearing Wills Canyon tomorrow and will open the trails when finished. Trails west of the river will be open to foot traffic only as there are unstable trail conditions in the canyons. Please respect posted signs and help spread the word.

 

Update:  Monday 1/8/18

It’s not just raining, it’s pouring – 5-7″ of rain predicted for the mountains and town today, 1/8, and Tuesday, 1/9. With all of that rain, we are expecting the hillsides to be sliding right down onto our trails and the trees to start falling over again. That means, for the time being, all trails on Valley View Preserve are closed, and all trails that lead up canyons on Ventura River Preserve are closed as well (the Lower River Loop and Upper River Loop trails remain open on VRP, however, be mindful of potential water flow through the wash). The trailheads to closed trails are currently fenced off and signs are up alerting users to the closures: please respect these closures for your own safety, and to allow the area to recover from the fire and water damage.

We will have the trails reopened to use as soon as possible, so check back here regularly and keep an eye out on the trails to see when the fencing goes down. Until then, enjoy a good rainy day movie or board game!

Update: Friday 1/5/18

Great news – most all of OVLC trails are reopened on the preserves as of January 5th! The only trail that remains closed on Ventura River Preserve is Chaparral Crest. Additionally, the bridge over the Casitas diversion channel on Rice Canyon Trail is out due to the fire. Users can still enjoy Rice Canyon and Kennedy Ridge trails, but for the time being, you’ll have to go the long way round over Wills Canyon trail, past El Nido Meadow (and then come back out that same way remember – no bridge!).
Most of the Valley View Preserve is open and ready to be tread on, so get out and enjoy!

But do it this weekend because with the looming rain on Monday, January 8th and Tuesday, January 9th and the lack of vegetation after the burn, we are expecting slides and downed trees that will require trails closures temporarily until, with the help of our dedicated volunteers, we can get out there and repair the damage. So look for the trails to be closed again starting on the afternoon on Monday the 8th and check back on our webpage for regular updates.

Just a reminder, please stay on the trails and off the burn – let nature heal!

Happy hiking, biking, and riding!

 

Update: Sunday 12/31/17

Happy New Year from the OVLC! We have exciting news – Fox Canyon, Luci’s, and Foothill trails on the Valley View Preserve are officially open.

When hiking please stay on the trails and off the burn areas so they can recover. Use caution as there are still potential rockfall zones and be mindful of those below you as the trail treads are loose.

We would like thank our dedicated team of highly trained trail experts who worked tirelessly to reopen these trails much quicker than expected. There is still lots of work to be done to stabilize areas of the trail, rebuild water bars, and even more work once the rain comes. We may have additional closures if we get storm damage.

If you would like to volunteer on the trails you can sign up at ovlc.org/volunteer. No time to volunteer but still want to help? Donate today at ovlc.org/give to support the trails you love.

Update: Tuesday 12/26/2017 

On Saturday we were able to complete our assessment of the trails on the Ventura River Preserve. We are grateful to Jim Downer, horticulture advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension who volunteered his time to help identify hazard trees along the trails. We spent five hours hiking Rice and Wills Canyons assessing the trees and identifying those that pose an imminent threat to the trails and trail users. Our next step is to hire a professional to clear those trees, then we can clear the rest still blocking the trails. We hope to get the trails west of the river open within a few weeks. Thank you for your patience and support. Continue to keep yourselves safe by respecting the trail closures.

New volunteer opportunity – help us grow trees and shrubs! Learn more »

Update: Thursday  12/21/2017

Yesterday we were able to assess Wills Canyon. While the trail itself is in good shape, there are many downed and hazard trees. The Field Crew began clearing the trail this morning and we hope to have it open in a few weeks. The good news is that the fire did not crown (burn in the canopy) in most of the canyon and the oaks will survive. The trails west of the river remain closed until we can deem them safe enough to pass. Please respect the closure signs for not only your safety, but the health of the land. There was evidence of both hikers and mountain bikers in the canyon before us. Please help spread the word and ask your friends not to hike the closed trails. We understand the desire to see your favorite trails and we promise we are working as quickly as possible to get them open for all to enjoy.

Update: Wednesday 12/20/17

We have been working on damage assessments for two days and we are switching up our priorities again based on our findings. Please read the updates below as they are very important for the future of our trails.

First, the bad news. It looks like the trails on the Valley View Preserve above Shelf Road will remain closed for some time. Our inspection showed severe trail damage on the Fox Canyon Trail and the Foothill Connector Trail between Fox Canyon and Luci’s Trail. In some places, the trail tread is gone and covered with very unstable landslide debris. This is very dangerous to traverse and will take substantial work to stabilize. The fire has also caused loosening of rocks on Luci’s Trail and created rock fall hazards. With no vegetation to stop rolling rocks, hikers risk dislodging rocks and hitting people below on the trail. We have seen people trying to hike these trails and we must implore our community not to do this. Every hiker traversing these trails will cause more damage, make it harder to repair, and lengthen the time it takes to re-open the preserve. Please pass the word because the future of these trails depends on everyone’s cooperation.

Better news. Things are looking better on the west side of the Ventura River at the Ventura River Preserve. However, the trails remain closed at present. Despite the loss of vegetation, the trail treads sustained little damage and the substrates are more stable than those at Valley View. There are still some obstructions to clear and we need to place some temporary signage as some trails are hard to find under the ash and debris. Please give us some time to work out these issues before venturing out. Wandering off the real trails will damage very fragile recovering areas. For now we will be focusing effort at the Ventura River Preserve to see if we can get it safe to open.

Ilvento Preserve is still closed and will remain so until we can open the Ventura River Preserve.

 

Update: Monday 12/18/17:

Ventura River Preserve: As of Monday, December 18, the trails along the river bottom east of the Ventura River are now re-opened. These areas did not burn and no safety problems have been identified. Closures remain for all trails west of the Ventura River, so please do not cross the riverbed. Safety assessments should begin west of the river later this week or next week. Please note that open trails may be more crowded due to closures on other trails, so please have your dogs on a leash and help ensure that trash and dogs waste is properly removed. Thanks!

OVLC Trail Closures continue on the Valley View Trails (Fox Canyon Trail, Luci’s Trail, and Foothill Trail): The Valley View Preserve trails are undergoing safety and damage assessments this week with a tentative goal of opening them by the end of the week. Please check back here before accessing those trails. Shelf Road is currently open, but please do not access the upper trails until notified that they have been opened.

Fuelbreak Road Trail: This trail traverses private property via a trail easement held by the OVLC and connects to Los Padres National Forest lands. Both the OVLC section and the LPNF section are closed. Check back for updates.

Closures remain on all trails on the Ilvento Preserve. Safety and damage assessments on this preserve will not be undertaken until mid-January. Please check back here for updates.

Along with the closed OVLC trails, the U.S. Forest Service has issues closure orders for all trails in the Los Padres National Forest in the Ojai, Mt. Pinos, and Santa Barbara Ranger Districts. These closures affect access to some OVLC preserves as the Pratt and Gridley Trails are closed, as are the Foothill, Cozy Dell, and the Fuelbreak Road trails. For updates on Los Padres NF trails and closures, please check https://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf.

Updated 12/14/17: The Valley View, Ventura River, and Ilvento Preserves remain closed until further notice. We will try to have the river bottom trails opened as soon as possible. Please check back for resources and updates.

* We will post updates of trail openings, ways to help, and other information as we assess the situation.

We are just starting to assess the damage at our preserves, but we are still limited by smoke and access difficulties. At present we only have preliminary information. Our initial estimate is that approximately 1,500 acres of OVLC preserve lands have been burned, including lands on the Ventura River, Valley View, Senior Canyon, and Ilvento preserves. The Rice Creek Restoration Project on the Ventura River Preserve that has been ongoing for over 6 years has been severely damaged. In the coming days and weeks we will get further out on the preserves to assess safety concerns, infrastructure damage, and ecological concerns.

While the preserves are blackened today, our local vegetation communities are well-adapted to fire and recovery. In a few short months we will see life begin to return to the preserves naturally.

Our greatest challenge in the coming year will be threats associated with invasive, non-native, plants encroaching into areas where native plants have been adapted. We will need many hands to meet this challenge.

Our local community has shown a generous interest in helping to restore the land. We are grateful for all the offers of help, and we look forward to working with all our volunteers once we have a coordinated response plan.

Today there are three things that everyone in the valley can do to support the recovery of our preserves:

One: Please respect our posted preserve closures. There are still hot spots out there as well as other safety threats. We are working as hard as we can to complete assessments and make the preserves safe for visitors. Still, some areas are likely to be closed for months.

Two: Once trails are re-opened, please remain on the official trails. Foot, bike, and horse traffic tramples native plants, sensitive soils, and burrows and nests and works against recovery efforts.

Three: Please sign up as a volunteer for the OVLC at www.ovlc.org/volunteer. We will need you when we have planned restoration actions.

Many of the images below are from the OVLC—however we were sent photos from many sources and may not know what the original source was. If one of these is your photos and you would like credit or to have us remove it from the gallery, please contact us.

 

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