The Ventura River winds its way through Willoughby Preserve
In 2011, the Conservancy was approached by Mr. Willoughby who was interested in donating his land. After some deliberation (the land is outside of our initial hillside focus) our board voted to accept the property. At the time the property was severely degraded by decades of neglect. Impacts of illegal encampments and invasive species had resulted in very little habitat or open space value on the 8.75 acre property.
Starting in 2012, VHC with assistance from many of our partners, began cleaning up the property to maximize environmental and community benefits. Since that time we have removed over 100 tons of waste from the site, as well as huge amounts of invasive species. The results of this restoration have been astounding. Bobcats, coyotes, and deer have been spotted using the newfound habitat; a recent plant survey found over 120 species living on the preserve; the amount of trash reaching the river has been reduced by approximately 99%.
Sticky monkey flower (Mimulus sp.) and laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) on Willoughby Preserve
Arundo donax, aka Arundo or Giant Reed, has been an on going problem in the estuary. This invasive plant from Southeastern Asia and the Mediterranean can completely take over a river habitat if gone unchecked. Fortunately, thanks to our hardworking volunteers VHC has made great strides to remove this non-native plant from the Ventura River estuary.
Comparison of Willoughby Preserve before and after arundo (seen on left in bright green) removal
Now that the property is cleaned up, and closely monitored by Conservancy staff, the local community is starting to rediscover the natural beauty of the Ventura River Estuary.
Map and Directions
Willoughby Preserve is located close to downtown Ventura and Surfer's Point, just off the Ventura Bike Trail. Parking is available in the lot at Main St. and Peking St. just past the HWY 33 overpass. Visitors should look for the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy sign and the opening in the levee fence allowing access to our preserve. Willoughby Preserve is open from dawn to dusk everyday, except during hazardous weather conditions and high water flow in the Ventura River. Visitors should watch out for ticks and poison oak. No dogs, camping, or motorized vehicles allowed.