Fred Volz remembered
By Patricia Weinberger
Without Fred and the crucial 25 years of
editorial precision he provided, the Ojai we know today would
be vastly different.
Imagine the end result if Fred Volz had not used his "bully
pulpit" to inform, to educate, to denounce, to sway and
to rally. Without Fred, all the valiant, and mostly successful,
efforts of so many to halt the ruthless, senseless exploitation
of the Ojai's unparalleled natural resources would have come
For example, without Fred, we would have a freeway. It would
have left 101 at Carpinteria, snaked over Casitas Pass, bisected
the city of Ojai, roared its way toward Santa Paula, en route
to Castaic Junction and Interstate 5.
Without Fred, there would be a complete four-lane Highway 33,
continued from its present ending point at Foster
Park, tearing the heart out of Casitas Springs, Oak View, Mira
Monte, and on into and out of the city of Ojai. Goodbye, Arcade.
Goodbye, Pergola. So long, Post Office.
Without Fred, such highway goings-on would have facilitated access
to Ed Carty's grand-scale shopping center on the Maricopa Highway.
Highway? Fred pointed out - repeatedly! - those four lanes emanating
at the "Y" landed you not-much-of-anywhere except the
Caltrans yard. However, with luck, political pull, much bucks
and - without Fred - four lanes would have led, in a matter of
minutes, to a multitude of retail stores, large and small, restaurants,
large and small, plus an enormous Albertson's Market as its anchor
Well, as the saying goes: "They will come." The rest
of the scenario is easy: no classy-looking "downtown"
as we know it today; probably no Starr Market (née Bayless)
or Safeway/Vons; no "Y" shopping center. That bit of
real estate displacement is called a "demographic shift."
Ask Santa Paula. Ask Fillmore (an earthquake helped them). It
took a referendum election here. We won, 3-1/2 to 1. No outlying
shopping center. Plus the formation of a downtown redevelopment
district. Try all that without a newspaper on your side.
Without Fred - we would have open pit mining, large scale, on
our flanks. U.S. Gypsum, armed with perfectly valid mining claims
(the permitting law enacted in 1873 - never modified, never revoked)
pitted a powerful and exceedingly rich corporate giant, as well
as the U.S. government (Los Padres is a national forest) against
we, the people. Without the Ojai Valley News sounding the rally
cry, we would have, most assuredly, been overcome. U.S. Gypsum's
operation included, among many horrors, 15 enormous open-pit
mines, stretching for five miles across the forest ridgeline
and the Pine Mountain-Reyes Peak campgrounds. Add an on-site
chemical plant spewing noxious emissions, mix in double-rigged
tanker trucks barreling down serpentine Route 33 on a 10-mile-apart
schedule - a full-scale environmental disaster 11 air miles from
the heart of Ojai was, as the Brits say, dead cert.
Without Fred, instead of the 3,200 pristine acres now known as
the Charles M. Teague Recreation Area, which overlooks the hills
and trees and deep blue waters of Lake Casitas, plans already
in the works would have permitted construction of 10,000 single-family
dwellings (density: 3.5 - go multiply). It took several years,
countless hearings, a zillion studies and reports, and hordes
of motivated citizens clamoring away before congressional funding
enabled purchase of the land and the gradual takeover of ownership
of 58 parcels, mostly owner-occupied.
As if that weren't enough, we then faced the specter of an operating
oil refinery looming at the very mouth of our valley. Initial
investments by a clutch of locals, incorporated as "Copco,"
soon became a part of a chain operation renamed "USA Petrochem."
Smog alerts were commonplace in the '70s and early '80s. With
Petrochem's toxic mix coursing up the natural route provided
by the Ventura River and into Ojai, the air we all breathe took
a turn for the worse. Summer months gave us a yellow haze which
often obscured the mountains. Smog was more of a given before
state and federal edicts cleaned things up somewhat and mandated
health alerts, which purportedly sent the very young and the
very old scampering indoors.
In the 25 years of Fred's stewardship of the Ojai Valley News,
the Ojai was the staging area for a protracted series of environmental
battles, all offered in the spirit of "good for the people."
Wannabe contributions to the well-being and scenic improvement
of our little valley included a proposed uranium mine, poised
strategically on land directly above Lake Casitas; a Honda Motor
Company motorcycle speedway on the 3,000-plus acres adjoining
Dennison Park; a "ranchette" subdivision on the Flying
H Ranch, also in the Upper Ojai; and a waterslide-motel extravaganza
at Soule Park, fronting on Ojai Avenue. You don't see any of
the above today, do you? Thank you, Fred.
Ojai simply would not be "The Ojai" without Fred Volz.
He gave direction and spirit. He was the community guiding light.
It was quite an environmental ride - those 25 years. We didn't
miss a bump or a curve, and not one of us who wrote for his paper
ever put on the brakes.
Your forever friend, Pat
The Ojai Valley News
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