Ventura Botanical Garden at Grant Park: Big Plans Afoot

Ventura Botanical Garden at Grant Park:
Ventura Botanical Garden at Grant Park:

By Jack Dunphy

Exciting things are unfolding on the hill above San Buenaventura City Hall at the Ventura Botanical Garden in central California.Through the vision and volunteer efforts of many caring citizens the botanical garden plans to offer much more than a garden.

Doug Halter, past President of the Garden, outlined the history of the gardens and future goals during a one hour hike from City Hall up to the sweeping views of Ventura and the Pacific Ocean from the top of the hill. He said this stunning site “is an opportunity to create a park as important to this city as Golden Gate Park is to San Francisco.”

Brimming with enthusiasm, with the tan that comes from working outside, Halter disclosed a high-tech service the park will offer later this year. It’s called the Story Trail app, a GPS-based application for your smartphone. As you walk through the park you’ll be able to hear about what you’re looking at: information on the animals, birds, the plants and the area history of the views below you. This Story Trail app will even be extended outside the park with information about downtown Ventura.

Doug gave us sneak preview of some of the things the app will talk about. Halter, an admitted history buff, said many of the rock walls that line the one-mile “Demonstration Trail” were built by the Chumash Indians. The Channel Islands, visible right off the coast, were the tribal headquarters of the Chumash, he said.

Doug Halter
Doug Halter: exciting plans for the gardens!

As we climbed up the steep dirt path, Halter said the park will showcase plants from the earths five different Mediterranean climate zones. One zone under development will have plants from Chile, for example.

Doug and his fellow board members are thinking big with other future ideas. Close to the top of the hill Doug said, “we are combining a public private partnership to build a world-class Discovery Center. It will be an LEED certified green building. It will showcase an eclectic mix of modern and Spanish architecture.” Doug described the planned adjacent outdoor classroom as an “education meadow.”

In addition, on the drawing board for the years ahead closer to the base of the hill near City Hall are plans for an outdoor amphitheater.

There is No need to wait for any of these developments to enjoy the trails and its 107 acres. The trails are wide and wheelchair accessible. Dogs are welcome. It is a great spot for a hike or a jog. The 1400 foot elevation climb is manageable for most anyone. From each switchback you will be rewarded with stunning views.