2017-03-16 / Front Page

Conservancy adds iconic Conejo Mountain to its open space ‘wish list’

By Becca Whitnall

An 1,800-foot peak between Newbury Park and Camarillo known as Conejo Mountain is the newest addition to what the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy calls its open space “wish list.”

On Monday, SMMC’s board voted to amend its land acquisition work program to include the area, which is threatened by grading and mining. The recommendation was made by Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a member of the conservancy’s board.

“I do know there have been some negotiations (with the owner),” she said. “It’s nice to know there’s a willing seller . . . and some funds that need to be spent fairly quickly.”

Most of the mountain is owned by Pacific Rock, a Camarillo-based mining operation.

Quarrying of Conejo Mountain began in the late 1800s by Southern Pacific Railroad for production of railroad bed material. Rock mining operations have been ongoing since 1959.

“The Conejo Mountain area would be an important addition to the SMMC work program,” wrote conservancy executive director Joseph Edmiston in his report to the board.

Conejo Mountain is the land feature along which the Conejo Grade runs, abutting Newbury Park’s Dos Vientos area on one side and Camarillo farmlands on the other.

The land area scores high for wildlife, plant life, trail, scenic, archeological/historic and watershed resources, Edmiston wrote.

During the conservancy’s Feb. 27 public meeting in Moorpark, a series of hikers, mountain bikers and nature enthusiasts spoke in favor of the addition. No one spoke against it.

“We are absolutely thrilled you’re considering the addition of the Conejo Mountain area into the conservancy work program,” said Yvonne Brockwell, whose family moved to Thousand Oaks in 1975. “This area is near and dear to our hearts, and we support the opportunity to preserve this resource and completing the ring of open space.”

The addition of a piece of land to the conservancy’s work program list does not mean property acquisition is imminent or even possible, but its inclusion may spur interest in land donations and/or working with other partners for funding opportunities if the property becomes available, Edmiston said

As it stands, at least a portion of Conejo Mountain is included in the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency’s priority list. COSCA is a joint authority organization between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District. Both entities have representation on the SMMC advisory committee.

A representative of the Camarillo based Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District said that PVRPD was also hoping to expand holdings surrounding its park area in the vicinity and that it had some funding to do so.

Established by the California Legislature in 1980, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has helped to preserve over 72,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings and has improved more than 114 public recreational facilities throughout Southern California.

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