Monday, October 8, 2012

Ventura Curb Cut

On Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, the Ventura Ocean Friendly Gardens team returned to the recently completed garden to take it one step further: the first residential 'curb cut' in Ventura.

Ocean Friendly Gardens apply the concepts of Conservation, Permeability, and Retention to convert a residential landscape from one that sheds water and contributes to runoff and ocean pollution to a climate appropriate garden that captures and infiltrates rainwater on site.

What is a 'curb cut?'  and why?

In cases where a public 'parkway' exists between the sidewalk and the street, cutting a notch in the curb allows rainwater to enter the parkway where it can be absorbed and cleansed.  This captures urban runoff before it reaches the storm drain.

The curb cut design was created by the Green Gardens Group (G3), a watershed-friendly design group who have been working with Surfrider and the City of Ventura (as well as other municipalities in Southern California) to provide professional training and design/oversight for Ocean Friendly Gardens.

Volunteers worked to dig out the parkway and transform the hard-packed grass into a permeable bioswale.

A 'french drain' was laid in a bed of gravel to ensure drainage once the soil becomes saturated.

Once the curb was cut and drainage installed, the parkway was planted and mulched.  The end result is a beautiful native landscape that captures and absorbs runoff from the street.  If the 'upstream' neighbor is washing a car, it waters the plants rather than pollutes the ocean. In heavy rains, excess water will re-enter the street on the downstream end of each bioswale, which will have removed most of the pollutants (car oil, fertilizers, trash, etc)

A series of projects like these installed the length of the street would effectively capture the 'first flush' runoff, which contains the majority of pollutants, and reduce the total volume of water entering the storm drain system.  In order to make this possible, the City of Ventura will soon be offering a standard design, no-cost permit for all City residents, a first in the nation!

Many thanks to all those who made this demonstration project possible, including the City of Ventura, Green Gardens Group, Paul Herzog and all the Surfrider Foundation volunteers who donated their sweat to help lead the way in solving the urban runoff problem!

This residence is the site of the recent Ventura Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) retrofit, funded by a State grant (Whale Tail License Plate Program). Turf grass was removed and the site was sheet mulched (smothered with compost, paper and mulch). Rain gutter downspouts were redirected into the landscape, filtering and utilizing rainwater as a resource. Native and some non-native-but-climate-appropriate plants were installed, and the irrigation was converted to drip. (See this for more details:

In the news:

More information: coastal blog: taking-ofg-to-the-streets-parkway-curb-cut-bio-swale

Ventura OFG Campaign:

Surfrider's OFG page:

Solving the Urban Runoff Problem:

Participant blog:

Get involved:
City of Ventura:  Jill Sarick     805-652-4501


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Surfrider West Coast Summit

Bringing together Surfrider's best of the best from Texas, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and Argentina the 2012 West Coast Chapter Summit was by far the most epic gathering of the West Coast Chapter activists.... EVER.   We kicked off early Saturday morning with Santa Barbara Chapter Chair, Sandy Lejeune who shared a video trailer of "The Twenty," highlighting the 20 years of dedicated work done by 20 men to preserve the last 20 miles of the Gaviota Coast.   Their Kickstarter campaign begins Oct 15th.   Keynote speaker Marcus Eriksen from 5 Gyres shared inspirational and shocking tales from his voyages through the plastic gyres, including displays of actual Tsunami debris recovered from the Pacific.   The State of the State presentation by CEO Jim Moriarty emphasized the message of SHARE, LEARN, APPLY to build a powerful activist network and broaden our reach.

Surfrider West Coast activists gathered for the 2012 Summit in Ventura 
Activists received the latest news from staff and activists on Surfrider's Top Advocacy issues including Coastal Preservation, Ocean Ecosystems, and Rise Above Plastics.   We heard about work being done to address the Tsunami Debris coming from Japan, and were given the latest updates on our Blue Water Task Force Program.  Some ventured outside for field trips to see the restoration efforts at Surfer's Point, and an Ocean Friendly Garden bioswale and curb cut demonstration.

Saturday night allowed activists time to eat, drink and connect with fellow activists while Ojai-based singer-songwriter Todd Hannigan played along, creating a memorable soundtrack for the evening.

The Sunday morning training sessions were very well attended and, most notably, most were run jointly between activists and Surfrider Foundation staff.    This was extremely helpful and we received a lot of positive feedback from Chapters who were thrilled to meet staff and have a better understanding of what staff does and how we provide support back out to Chapters.

A very sincere THANK YOU to everyone who attended, and to all those who contributed to making this year's West Coast Chapter Summit a complete success!   Presentations, hand-outs, and photos from the 2012 Summit will be uploaded to the Summit website and ChapterNet in the coming week.

(...above text from SoCal Chapter Coordinator Nancy Hastings, who organized the event.  Thanks Nancy!)

More River Cleanups

During the week of September 17, the County of Ventura did a major cleanup of the Ventura River starting at the upper end of the levee at Stanley Rd, working their way down to the Main Street bridge.  Officials estimated 100 tons of trash and debris were removed. This effort was planned and coordinated with the City of Ventura and other responsible parties in the Trash TMDL, as well the social services organizations working to help relocate those who called the riverbottom home.

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy held two volunteer work days in September, with more being planned in October and November.  The video below was filmed for CAPS cable TV in Ventura:

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy work days have filled three large dumpsters, with many more to go.  The photo below shows trash piled up along the bank of the river.  September sees the lowest flows of the year, and when the rains come all this debris will be flushed out of the rivermouth into the ocean and onto the beaches!  

The next work day is scheduled for October 27, and VHC hopes to remove these piles (this is just one) before the rains come.  See below for more info.

Graffiti under Main St bridge

As this image suggests, there is more to this issue than cleaning up the mess.  The riverbottom has been home for many people, with the population increasing dramatically over the past decade.  The Ventura River has become a destination, both for those seeking refuge, as well as other cities seeking a place to send their homeless.  EVICTION DAY is a film that focuses on the environmental issue surrounding the habitation by homeless in the mouth of the Ventura River.  The film will be showing at the Ojai Film Festival on Saturday Oct 27, as part of the afternoon Focus Earth -OCEANS and WATER.  Paul Jenkin of The Surfrider Foundation and Ben Pitterle of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper will head up the panel discussion related to ocean and watershed environmental issues. 

Volunteer Event:

River Clean -Up - VHC Willoughby Property - Saturday, October 27 9AM-Noon.  This event is part of the Points of Light Institute's "Make a Difference" Day of Service. We've cut the grass, now it's time to take out the trash. Yes, we have quite a schedule of chores ahead of us on the Willoughby Property.  If you have looked over the Main Street Bridge lately you know what we mean.  The CREW has cleared a great deal of Arundo exposing mounds of trash and debris.  E. J. Harrison will provide the roll-off bin, we'll have the buckets, gloves, grabbers and protective gear.  You bring hard-toed shoes, long pants and long-sleeve shirts and sun protection.  Park at the Main Street lot or along Peking or better yet ride your bike! Together we can make a big difference in the River.
More info: or  643-8044.

In the news:
 Officials clean up Ventura River bottom for what they hope is last time - VC Star

The Ventura River bottom diaspora
...    “Free camping [in the river bottom] is not free because of the cost of police and fire and all those people living in unsanitary conditions ending up in county hospitals [or] prisons that taxpayers pay for,” said Paul Jenkin, a representative from Friends of the Ventura River coalition.

Restoration and recreation replacing dangerous illegal camping along the Ventura River - VCReporter

Trash piled up under the Main Street Bridge, Sept 23, 2012
One of the filled dumpsters with trash from the lower Ventura River