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By on December 22, 2020 in News, Newsletter

Rob Young

Over the years, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has had many outstanding volunteers. Rob Young is one of them. He has been instrumental in many projects throughout the preserves, yet his leadership and commitment shined even brighter in his work on the construction of the Allan Jacobs trail and bridge. We would like to thank Rob for his years of volunteering and dedication to the OVLC. Volunteers like him and countless others are instrumental to our success protecting the preserves’ open spaces and trails. Rob was generous to take some time to talk to OVLC Land Steward, Linda Wilkin, about his experience volunteering and the building of the Allan Jacobs bridge. 

Q: Good morning Rob! Please tell me a little bit about yourself. 

A: I am originally from Australia. I grew up in Southeast Queensland and started my career as a schoolteacher. However, after a year of teaching I was called up for National Service to do two years in the Australian Armed Force, where I served in Vietnam. This experience improved me and helped make me who I am today. Upon my return, I obtained a degree in geology and started working at Chevron as a wellsite geologist, working my way up to management. 

Q: You love giving back to the community. What fostered this sense of community? 

A: As a youth, I was active in the Scouts. I had a fabulous scoutmaster who led us through all sorts of interesting exercises and drills – typical Boy Scout stuff. I became a Rover Scout after becoming a Queen’s Scout, which is the equivalent of the Eagle Scout in the U.S. On weekends, we would assist Search and Rescue, the Forest Service’s fire department, and ambulance and police services. This formative experience taught me to contribute to whatever community I am living in. Now that I am retired, I am fortunate to have the time and the energy to give back—not to mention I can still wield a Pickmattock! 

Rob standing on the completed Allan Jacobs Bridge

Q: You are a long-term volunteer with the OVLC. What got you into volunteering with us? 

A: Back in 2009, I literally almost ran into Rick Bisaccia, then Stewardship Director for the OVLC. I was riding my bicycle and I nearly T-boned his car, as he popped out of the OVLC gate. I was in the wrong, since I was on the wrong side of the road, so I got back on my bike and took off for home. Two weeks later, there was a call to open up a new trail in this area. I arrived and there across from me was Rick. 

Q: Tell me about the building of the Allan Jacobs Trail? 

A: The Allan Jacobs Trail was built to replace the lower Chaparral Crest Trail Page 23 

which was closed for restoration. I offered to help scout a new trail with Brendan. Cutting the trail was solid work and we kept running into these dastardly scrub oak stumps, which had massive root systems that needed to be extracted. When we finally met up with the existing trail we were ecstatic, but the work was not quite done. 

Q: What was missing from the Allan Jacobs Trail? 

A: We had created an amazing trail, but there was still a ravine that was difficult to cross; I witnessed people scrambling, sliding on their backsides, and dismounting horses and bicycles to cross safely. We needed to build a bridge over Olive Creek to make the trail more accessible. I was involved in the engineering, design, and the guidance from the blueprints. Together with community volunteers we had built the pylons–the support structures at each end–when Covid-19 hit. Building the bridge came to an abrupt stop, but the community was relying on this trail more than ever. OVLC staff continued to work on the bridge, but without the aid of a large volunteer crew, progress was slow. Once the OVLC had new Covid-19 volunteer procedures in place, we had a massive volunteer effort and got all the planks nailed down. After that, I came out a few more days to put some finishing touches on the bridge, and then it was finally ready. 

Q: What were the biggest challenges and successes with your work on the bridge? 

A: Poison oak was always a challenge, but the most rewarding challenge was getting the first stringer, which weighed about 1,100 pounds, across the ravine and onto the support sills. There were four people involved in this task, and once it was accomplished we could actually begin to see a bridge and walk across it. 

Q: What do the stringers do? 

A: Underneath the visible planks, which are substantial themselves, there are four stringers. The stringers are 2’ x 5 1/2” massive blocks of wood that are 30 feet long; they hold the bridge up and safely allow the weight of two horses on the bridge at a time. 

Q: How did you get the stringers out to the bridge site? 

A: The stringers were towed by a little tractor. You can probably still see slide marks from when they were pulled in. They were deposited on the trail above and we had to maneuver them down to the ravine. We used a tree over to the east and a scrub oak up the hill to haul them across. 

Q: What do you enjoy the most about volunteering for OVLC? 

A: Seeing the results! At the end of the day you are dirty and tired but you’ve made 100 yards of new trail. And most of the people who use the trail say thank you–this keeps me going. 

Q: What would you tell people who were thinking about volunteering for OVLC? 

A: Just do it! With Covid-19, there are special protocols regarding distancing, wearing masks, bringing your own gloves, and so on, but volunteering is something that everyone should consider. It makes the place better for everyone and gives back to the community. It is a safe environment and no experience is necessary. The OVLC provides tools and training. 

Q: What are your favorite OVLC trails? 

A: I regularly hike Oso and Chaparral Crest, and enjoy bringing visitors out there. I’m practicing birding now with fellow volunteer Jerry Maryniuk. If my grandson is with me, we go down to the Ventura River to play in the water and rock hop. We also enjoy watching the wildlife.

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