On February 14, 2009, seven members of the Sespe Fly Fishers in Ventura California met on the banks of the Ventura River just below the confluence of San Antonio Creek near Ojai, California. The objective was to plant 47 trees on the riverbank and adjacent area. The area is a restoration project named the Confluence Preserve under the management of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. This portion of the Preserve is a conservation easement on a private ranch. The flood of 2005 washed several acres of the ranch downstream. The Conservancy received grant funding to stabilize, restore, and protect the stream bank and remaining ranchland.
Some estimates indicate that prior to modern mans intervention and diversion of the natural water flow, the Ventura River watershed could have supported over 20,000 spawning steelhead. In more modern times, prior to ground water pumping and the installation of the Matilija and Casitas dams, the river had been home to an annual run of approximately 2,500 to 5,000 steelhead. Recent returns of the endangered Southern Steelhead are down to about 10 fish per year. The Ventura River is a targeted stream for steelhead recovery. Preserving and restoring the riparian zone of the river is vital to the steelhead recovery effort.
The Conservancy prepared the site by placing rock groins in the flat streambed overflow area, installed an irrigation system and mulched the site for weed control. What they needed were trees and planting labor.
. The Sespe Fly Fisher’s project had been in the planning stage for over a year. The club was looking for a meaningful way to express recognition of the commitment Yvon Chouinard, owner of Patagonia, has made to the club and the environment. Yvon’s efforts have a world-wide impact. Dennis Harper, the club’s Conservation Chairman along with Gary Bulla, the club’s Program Chairman researched the options for recognition of Yvon. A local area conservation project was ideal. They investigated several sites for a tree planting project. The club members provided the funds which had been donated for conservation efforts. Fifteen Sycamores, 15 Cottonwoods and 5 Coastal Live Oaks were purchased for the project. OVLC Program Manager Derek Poultney and Stevie Adams, the Ventura River Confluence Project Manager, provided guidance and coordination leading to a perfect wedding of the club’s desire and the Conservancy’s needs.