West Coast
A blue heron stands in a canal in the Ormond Beach wetlands in Oxnard. The latest plan to restore Ormond Beach includes rerouting a lagoon, putting up a visitor center and installing a trail system with multiple trailheads. (Photo: ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR, )

Plans to restore Ormond Beach include realigning lagoon, installing trail system

When Shirley Godwin and her husband Larry moved to south Oxnard in the 1960s, Ormond Beach beckoned.

Sandwiched between Port Hueneme and Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu, the beach is home to 30 rare, threatened or endangered species and a favorite among bird watchers.

But it's also nestled among industrial uses and environmentalists for decades have been trying to protect the beach.

The Godwins have been there every step of the way, following the developments of Ormond Beach restoration, offering input and fighting more industrial projects.

Last week, Shirley found herself among 100 other like minded people at the South Oxnard Center. They were all learning about the latest plan to protect Ormond Beach.

"What feels best to me is this room of people anticipating for Ormond Beach," Godwin said. "I'm amazed at the knowledge in the room."

The latest plan to restore Ormond Beach includes rerouting a lagoon, putting up a visitor center and installing a trail system with multiple trailheads.

It's an ambitious project with a design phase that's about 30% complete and the agencies behind it — city of Oxnard, Coastal Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy — want public input. Specifically, they want to hear about desired features and access concerns and they want those comments by Aug. 21, when the comment period ends.

By fall, a draft of a final plan is expected to be ready and a final public meeting will be scheduled early next year.

That's when the hard part starts. An environmental impact report and proper permitting will have to be completed and funds raised before construction can begin, which is expected in 2024. Agencies are eyeing state bonds and grants to fund the project.

It may sound like there's a long way to go but it has actually come a long way. Efforts to restore this 2-mile stretch of the beach and the accompanying wetlands started in the 1990s with land acquisitions and feasibility studies.

The latest plan calls for realigning the Ormond Lagoon around the former Halaco Engineering Inc. property. Halaco has been designated a Superfund site, meaning the land is deemed contaminated and hazardous by the federal government.

Wetlands will have a terraced formation in order to adapt to sea level rise.

Restoration of the area, which stretches from the lagoon on the other side of Port Hueneme to near Arnold Road, is not the only goal. Public access so that pedestrians, bikers, bird watchers and school groups can visit is important, too.

Multi-use trails and boardwalks are part of the latest plan. There will be entry points and trailheads at Hueneme Road as well as McWane Boulevard. The current entry point at Arnold Road will have less emphasis and be primarily for bicyclists. A visitor center and information kiosks as well as wildlife friendly night time lighting are also planned.

Children who attended a meeting on Ormond Beach restoration last week in Oxnard participated in an art project and turned cotton balls into snowy plovers. The birds call Ormond Beach home and nest there in mid-March.

Children who attended a meeting on Ormond Beach restoration last week in Oxnard participated in an art project and turned cotton balls into snowy plovers. The birds call Ormond Beach home and nest there in mid-March. (Photo: WENDY LEUNG/THE STAR)

Godwin had some concerns about the trailhead and access point locations and wondered how pedestrians could enter crossing busy Hueneme Road. She also said there are safety issues, especially at night.

"Can you have a docent at every corner? Is a kiosk enough?" Godwin said.

Experts consider Ormond Beach to be the largest area of intact dunes and wetlands in Southern California. It is home to 200 species of birds, including the California least tern and the western snowy plover.

But it is also surrounded by the Superfund site and an operating power plant. In recent months, a homeless encampment has formed and continues to grow. City officials believe there are more than 50 homeless people there.

City leaders have been going to the beach to assess the situation and come up with a plan. The homeless population will likely disturb the area come spring when the snowy plovers nest.

Early last year, the city cleared a homeless encampment at the Superfund site, which at one time had approximately 150 people.

Addressing the homeless issues was among the comments given during the meeting on Wednesday when participants were divided into group sessions. Other issues include Americans with Disabilities Act access, cleanliness of restrooms and making sure the project will involve the Chumash tribe.

Kim True, a landscape architect who serves on the consulting team, said more visitors to the area will likely mean fewer nefarious activities.

"By improving the area and adding more eyes in the form of visitors and docents and staff, we envision the site would be less attractive to unwanted activities," True said.

To learn more about the latest plan and submit comments through a Google form, visit ormond.scc.ca.gov.

Wendy Leung is a staff writer for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at wendy.leung@vcstar.com or 805-437-0339. You can also find her on Twitter @Leung__Wendy.

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