2021: From Ojai Ice Cream to Ojai roller-skating elephant: Part 2

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By Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter

and Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter


April, 2021

Former Mayor Blatz dies

April 2 

Longtime Ojai attorney and civic leader Paul Blatz passed away after a battle with cancer March 26.

Blatz was 69. A resident of Ojai for more than three decades, Blatz founded the Blatz Law Firm and practiced law in downtown Ojai since 1992. He was the former president of the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association.

Blatz served as an Ojai city councilmember from 2010 to 2018, and was succeeded by his son and current councilmember, Ryan Blatz. Paul Blatz served as Ojai mayor in 2013 and 2016. 


CMWD  works on getting state water

April 2 

Casitas Municipal Water District is moving ahead with design of a project to bring state water to Lake Casitas via Santa Barbara County.

The project, estimated to cost $15.5 million, would include construction of about 6,000 feet of 16-inch pipeline and two pump stations, to connect Carpinteria Valley Water District facilities with CMWD facilities. 


Get the scoop on Ojai Ice Cream

April 9

The owners of an iconic Ojai business are passing the baton — or, more accurately, the scoop — to new owners.

Doug and Donna Rydbeck of Ventura, longtime owners of Ojai Ice Cream, are retiring and selling the business to Jonathan and Kodi Berg of Los Angeles and, soon-to-be, Ojai.

It’s a homecoming for Kodi. As a student at Nordhoff High School in the late ’90s, she worked in the shop during her sophomore, junior and senior years. “I always blasted country music,” she said, “and I remember singing into the ice cream scoop.”


County moves to orange tier

April 9

Ventura County moved to the COVID-19 orange tier of reopening April 7, meaning gyms, movie theaters and other businesses can now welcome more customers.

“We welcome moving into the orange tier, not only because it increases capacity limits for restaurants, but it also allows for the opening of many businesses that have been required to remain closed up to this point,” said Jamie Fleming, CEO of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce.


Progress made on removing dam

April 9 

Stakeholders in the Ventura River Watershed say they made significant progress last year toward removing Matilija Dam.

At an online public meeting April 1 hosted by the Ventura River Watershed Council, a stakeholder group in the $182-million project gave updates on technical and environmental items, and funding and outreach for the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project.

The project, begun more than 20 years ago, requires several public infrastructure construction projects be completed before the obsolete, 74-year-old dam can be removed. Groundbreaking on the new Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge was slated to begin over the next few weeks.


Crews take mule train into Sespe

April 16

 The morning of April 14, two strings of pack mules of eight animals apiece left a trailhead north of Ojai, carrying tools and supplies for a major trail project in the Sespe Wilderness.

The mules and their handlers, from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pack Stock Center of Excellence, were followed by a crew of eight and a supervisor from the California Conservation Corps.

Their destination: Piedra Blanca Camp, home base for much-needed trail work on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail, north of Rose Valley.


Electric motions spark debate

April 16

 The Ojai City Council voted unanimously to start planning to convert city-owned buildings and vehicles to electric power and is writing a letter to the Postal Service to ask that its vehicles also be plug-ins.

Both of the motions that passed at the April 13 council meeting were requested by the Ojai Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee.


VC COVID-19 first-dose vaccinations now over 50%

April 16

On April 14, Ventura County health officials reported over 50% of the county population 16 and up have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

As of April 15, there were 80,186 people who ever were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Ventura County.

This was a 30-case increase from the day before and a 292-case increase from the week before.

Out of these 80,186, 1,003 were in Ojai and 372 in Oak View.


Firefighters douse fire near Casitas Springs

April 16

A brushfire in the Ventura River bottom near Casitas Springs April 15 served as a reminder that fire season in Southern California can be nearly year-round.

The fire, dubbed the “Ranch Fire,” was reported at 11:19 a.m. at Santa Ana Road and Nye Ranch Fire Road. According to the Ventura County Fire Department, the fire burned approximately 1.8 acres of medium to heavy brush.

Ventura County Copter 2 responded to drop water on the blaze. Ground crews were able to get a quick handle on the flames and the helicopter was released. 


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Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten

Cameron Dohemann


Knight delight

April 23

“I just wanted to have fun and make someone’s day,” said 16-year-old Cameron Dohemann after he strolled through downtown Ojai on April 20 dressed in a shiny suit of armor. The 6-foot-4 resident of Colorado Springs is visiting family in Ojai. “One of my family members had a suit of armor lying around and I wondered if I could sit in it. And I couldn’t, so I started walking around Ojai,” said Dohemann, who makes suits of armor at home for cosplay. His walk through the Arcade and Libbey Park attracted curious onlookers who posed for photos, including 5-year-old Meadows Tantamco from Los Angeles. “I thought he was a superhero,” she told the Ojai Valley News.


Condor rescuer Jesse Grantham to fly away

April 23

Local bird expert Jesse Grantham moved from Pennsylvania to Ojai in April of 1980 to help save the California condor from extinction.

His first Ojai experience was driving down the Dennison Grade in his packed car, rounding the curve at Boccali’s and hitting the straightaway. “The orange blossoms were in bloom and it was warm,” he recalled, “and the car filled with that smell and I said, ‘I’m home.’”

That was 41 years ago. Now, Jesse and wife Trina are moving again, to North Carolina, to be closer to their daughter and their only grandchild.


Tree planted at park

April 23

The city of Ojai celebrated Arbor Day April 22 with a tree-planting event at Libbey Park. Helping to plant a young coast live oak donated by Ojai Trees were Ojai City Councilman Randy Haney, Ojai Mayor Betsy Stix, Ojai City Manager James Vega and Ojai City Councilmembers Suza Francina and William Weirick. The event featured guest speakers and a blessing of the tree by Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie. In addition to marking National Arbor Day on April 30, the event celebrated Earth Day and the city of Ojai’s recent recognition as a 2020 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, for the first time since 2009.


Ojai C.R.E.W. captures county Earth Day award

April 30

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors honored Ojai-based The C.R.E.W. April 27 with a 2021 Earth Day Award.

For the seventh annual awards, supervisors from each of Ventura County’s five districts picked individuals or organizations in their district to honor as environmental champions.

“Each honoree today has contributed to making our world a cleaner and greener place to live, and we celebrate them and their extraordinary work,” said 2nd District Supervisor Linda Parks.

Representing the Ojai Valley, 1st District Supervisor Matt LaVere selected for the award The C.R.E.W., an acronym for Concerned Resource Environmental Workers.


Martinez named MOWD  general manager

April 30 

Meiners Oaks Water District has named Justin Martinez its new general manager.

Martinez, 37, replaces Mike Hollebrands, who retired.

In his new job, Martinez will manage the small agency of five employees that serves just over 4,000 residents through 1,280 service connections. “We’re not big, but there’s certainly a lot of work that has to be done on a daily basis to keep up with everything,” said Martinez, who worked for the District for 10 years as a field supervisor prior to taking a position with the city of Oxnard.

Martinez, his wife and two kids live on the same street in Mira Monte where he grew up. He attended Oak View Elementary, Mira Monte Elementary, Matilija Junior High and Nordhoff High schools.


May, 2021

web OVLC Coyote

File photo courtesy OVLC

Use caution when hiking, especially with dogs, due to recent reports of aggressive coyotes near local trails.


Coyote encounters in Nature Preserve
May 7

Hikers are advised to use caution and leave their dogs at home after several incidents involving aggressive coyotes on a nature preserve near Ojai.

Four separate incidents were reported the week of April 26, with coyotes acting very aggressively toward people. “In particular, toward people with dogs,” said Brendan Taylor, director of field programs for Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, which owns and manages the Ventura River Preserve.

During the incidents near the Old Baldwin Trailhead and the lower Ventura River Preserve trails, the coyotes aggressively and persistently threatened hikers that had large dogs with them, according to OVLC.

The coyotes’ aggressiveness suggests they’re being protective of a den in an area near the Old Baldwin Trailhead, Taylor said.


Council to study independent Police Department

May 7

At its May 4 meeting, the Ojai City Council reviewed a draft agreement between the city and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, and directed Ojai City Manager James Vega to explore options for the city of Ojai creating its own Police Department.

The city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office has not been updated since it was amended in 1980, though the Auditor-Controller’s Office did recommend an update back in 2012. Since 2014, the city of Ojai has requested an update to the agreement several times.


Mask mandate to loosen

May 14 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced May 13 that fully vaccinated people can resume indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state or local laws. This announcement came a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he will lift most of the state’s mask mandates on June 15, the date when the state plans to fully reopen.

On the vaccine front, Ventura County began administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to residents 12 to 15 years old on May 13, after the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC gave the move the green light this week.


Black Mountain Ranch for sale for $100 million

May 14 

A sprawling 3,600-acre cattle and horse ranch in Upper Ojai that just hit the market can be had for $100 million.

Black Mountain Ranch, at 8434 Ojai-Santa Paula Road, consists of 63 separate parcels, with a main residence that spans more than 13,250 square-feet, according to Jordan Cohen of RE/MAX One, who holds the listing. The working ranch, built in 2004, was reportedly put up for sale by businessman Richard Gilleland.

In addition to the primary residence, the estate boasts a 6,200-square-foot carriage house with a gym, office space and wine cellar, and a 7,200-square-foot auto museum.


Fox NFL Sunday crew comes to Ojai

May 14 

The Fox NFL Sunday crew visited Ojai last weekend as part of their annual event to prepare for the upcoming NFL season. This is the first time the event was held in Ojai, and the team stayed at the Ojai Valley Inn. From left: Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson, host and former Ojai resident Curt Menefee, NFL insider Jay Glazer and Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan check out Libbey Park.


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Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten

Two new Firehawk helicopters that recently arrived in Ventura County will be game-changers during fire season, according to officials.


New Firehawks swoop in

May 21

With wildfire season already off to a fast start in Southern California, Ventura County is beefing up its firefighting capabilities with the arrival of two additional helicopters.

On May 20, the Ventura County Aviation Unit welcomed a pair of Firehawk helicopters to its fleet based at the Camarillo Airport.

The aircraft, designated Copter 4 and Copter 5, are military surplus Black Hawk helicopters retrofitted for not only firefighting operations but search and rescue and other missions.


Ojai readies for next emergency

May 21

 The city of Ojai will partner with the Ojai Police Department, Ventura County Fire Department, and others to hold an Emergency Preparedness Day on May 27.

The city will launch a new Emergency Preparedness webpage, prepare television, radio, and online messages, and schedule demonstrations.

Residents are reminded that their first step in preparing for an emergency is to register to receive emergency notifications from the county-operated VC Alert Emergency Notification by visiting

Emergency information is also available at


Steve Frank retires from 24-7 ambulance business

May 21

Forty years after he brought the first paramedics to the valley, Steve Frank is stepping down as owner and CEO of the only ambulance company Ojai has ever known.

In March, Frank, 63, announced his retirement and the sale of LifeLine Medical Transport to Gold Coast Ambulance of Oxnard, a division of American Medical Response.

Gold Coast will take over the business on June 1, he told the Ojai Valley News.

A paramedic by profession, Frank grew up in the Ojai Valley, raised his children and spent most of his adult life here. 


City negotiations with sheriff over contract heat up

May 28

As part of the city’s ongoing negotiations with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department over its 40-year-old contract, the Ojai City Council approved an agreement with a consultant to examine and identify opportunities related to the contract.

The city will pay an amount not to exceed $18,000 for the agreement with Calseco, LLC and principal Scott Whitney. Whitney worked with the Oxnard Police Department on and off between 1990-2020, culminating in his time as chief of police from 2016 to 2020.

The assessment will examine the contract costs, level of services and possible opportunities.


Bergen returns to CMWD

May 28

Directors of Casitas Municipal Water District have appointed a former director to fill a vacant seat on the five-member board. At a special board meeting May 21, Casitas directors unanimously appointed Mary Bergen to the position left vacant when director Angelo Spandrio resigned.

Spandrio had recommended Bergen for the position when he stepped down.


New Farmers’ Market to debut June 3

May 28

The anticipated June 3 grand opening of the new Ojai Community Farmers’ Market is nearly here.

The new midweek market will take place at the Chaparral High School courtyard, 414 E. Ojai Ave., from 3 to 7 p.m. starting Thursday, June 3.

It will be run by a board of community members, including Grace Malloy of Poco Farms and local lawyer Julie Gerard. The market is officially a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, Malloy said. She added that the market has obtained all the necessary permits required by the city. The market will open with more than 45 vendors. More than 75% of these vendors will be from the Ojai Valley.


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Ojai Valley News photo by Marianne Ratcliff

Greg Cooper of Ojai learned in February he’d be returning to teaching photography in the fall.


Ojai photographer Cooper charts new path

May 28

A former photographer for the Ojai Valley News is pulling up stakes in Ojai to go teach his trade at a university in the Midwest.

Greg Cooper was chief photographer at the OVN from 1990-1993 and more recently served as director of Community Outreach at the Ojai-based Humane Society of Ventura County.

This fall, Cooper, 53, will begin a full-time, tenure track position at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, teaching photography and photojournalism for the school’s journalism program.

“To go back to full-time teaching has been my No. 1 goal. But to have a tenure track position at the university is just icing on the cake,” he said.


June, 2021

Baby critters pack Ojai Raptor Center

June 4

Baby season is in full swing at the Ojai Raptor Center.

The annual intake of orphaned animals got started a bit early this year because of warm weather and the birds nesting earlier, said officials at the nonprofit center on Baldwin Road.

The season runs through late summer, when the birds will be released into the wild. “We get the babies starting in May and then we have to rehabilitate them and then train them how to forage and hunt,” said Kimberly Stroud, executive director with ORC.


Parade chairs can come out June 28

June 4 

After a year hiatus, the Ojai Independence Day Parade and fireworks show are on track to return on Saturday, July 3, with a few pandemic-inspired tweaks. Because Ojai Avenue is a state highway, a Caltrans permit for the parade route is still pending, but city officials are optimistic that will soon be granted.

After the first chairs along the parade route popped up this week, city officials announced new rules for the festivities due to the pandemic, including:

— No chairs allowed on Ojai Avenue before Monday, June 28,  at 8 a.m. and

— No more than 10 chairs in a group with a space between groups of chairs.


2-alarm fire at old bowling alley knocked down

June 11

 The cause of a two-alarm fire at the old bowling alley in Ojai the evening of June 9 remains under investigation.

The fire, reported at 9:09 p.m. at 1202 E. Ojai Ave. was dubbed the “Golden Incident” and was upgraded at 9:40 p.m. to a second alarm, which brought in all of Battalion 2 from Upper Ojai to the Rincon.

Firefighters arriving on scene found the structure charged with smoke and began looking for the source of the fire.

Vertical ventilation and an aggressive interior attack slowed the progression of the fire, according to VCFD.

Firefighters reported the fire contained and controlled at approximately 10:15 p.m.


Bridge means end is near for dam

June 11

 County officials and their project partners broke ground June 7 on the first major component of Matilija Dam removal.

Construction work started this week on the Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge in Oak View.

On Monday, the Ventura County Public Works Agency commemorated the start of construction with a groundbreaking ceremony at the bridge site on the Ventura River.

Removing the dam is necessary to restore the aquatic habitat of Matilija Creek and the Ventura River, to encourage fish passage and restore natural sediment transport, according to stakeholders.


Sheriff investigates after Thacher School report

June 18

Ventura County authorities have launched an investigation into allegations of past sexual abuse and misconduct at The Thacher School in Ojai. The allegations — some going back 40 years — were brought forward publicly June 16 in a report created by the  exclusive boarding school and a law firm it retained.

The 90-page report describes in detail incidents including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and rape at the 132-year-old school.


Judge splits Ventura water lawsuit in two

June 25

The first phase of a trial in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit could begin as soon as February.During a status conference in the case June 21 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Judge William F. Highberger granted a motion to bifurcate, or split the case into two separate phases. He set a tentative phase 1 trial date for Feb. 14, 2022.


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2020 and 2021 Ojai Living Treasures


Hello, Ojai Living Treasures!

June 25

The Rotary Clubs of Ojai presented the 2020 and 2021 Ojai Living Treasures at the Ojai Valley Museum on June 22. Pictured, from left, are Betsy King Watson (’20), Becky Beckett (’20), Severo Lara (’21), Arthur Vander (’21), Kathy Broesamle (’21), Judy Vander (’21), Leonard Block (’20), Roger Essick (’21), Danny Everett and Tiarzha Taylor (’21) and Haady Lashkari (’21). Not pictured are Living Treasures Committee chair Dr. Fred Fauvre, Marquita Flemming (’20), Martha Ditchfield (’20), and Bryan and Nikki Crawford (’20).


Supervisors vote 3-2 to allow flare

June 25

 The Ventura County Board of Supervisors granted a permit extension June 22 for an oil and gas facility in Upper Ojai — with one modification. The permit sought by Carbon California would have allowed the operation of three existing oil wells and a gas facility, the full-time use of a gas flare, and truck access to the site via Koenigstein Road for the next 25 years.


July, 2021

Pride Walk celebrates more joy in Ojai 

July 2

Ojai celebrated its 30th annual Gay Pride Walk on June 27 as some 200 members and allies of the local LGBTQ+ community walked through downtown Ojai. The walks was organized by original co-founders Lynne Doherty and Helen Allen. 


Appeals in works for Ojai Quarry plan 

July 2

A proposed change to a reclamation plan for the Ojai Quarry has won the approval of county planning officials, but local groups say they’re appealing the decision. Reclamation of mined lands is necessary to prevent or minimize adverse effects on the environment and to protect the public health and safety, and a plan for the process once mining operations have ceased is required by law. 


Ojai celebrates independence day 

July 9

Organizers of the 2021 Ojai Independence Day Parade say the event drew a record crown along Ojai Avenue July 3. “The crowd was the biggest we’ve ever had,” said Kristi Adejumo, president of the Ojai Independence Day Committee. “It was amazing to see everyone out and somewhat back to normal.” 


Dr. Halverson’s COVID-19 articles preserved

July 9

Longtime Ojai physician Dr. James Halverson has been documenting the pandemic for the community since April 2020 through weekly articles published in the Ojai Valley News. The 60 collected articles were compiled and presented to the Ojai Valley Museum on June 30. 


San Diego Padres draft Nordhoff grad Luke Boyd

 July 16

Former Nordhoff High School standout and Ojai Valley native Luke Boyd was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 17th round of the 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft July 13.


Happy 100th birthday, Ojai 

July 30

Ojai commemorated the city’s centennial with a community birthday party at Sarzotti Park on Aug. 5. The free event hosted by the city of Ojai featured live entertainment, speeches, performances, food, informational booths and more. 


Judge forces Ventura city to show its cards first 

July 30

The judge in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit has told the city of Ventura it will need “to put its cards on the table” first regarding expert pre-trial testimony in the case. 


Project underway to digitize 130 years of OVN 

July 30

In a collaborative effort, the Ojai Valley News is creating a digital archive of the news dating back to 1891. 


August, 2021

Man burned in downtown fire 

Aug. 6

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man on suspicion of starting a fire in downtown Ojai on July 30 that caused him serious burn injuries, authorities said. A deputy from the Ojai Police Station was on patrol when he first noticed what appeared to be a structure fire near the Ojai Arts Center and Libbey Park, said Ojai Police chief Jose Rivera. 


HELP of Ojai to move to Ojai Café Emporium site

Aug. 6

An Ojai property that has been serving the community since the early 1900s will continue to do so, but in another capacity. 


This could be the worst drought in a century

Aug. 13

The deepening drought across the West could rival one of the worst droughts of the last century, according to meteorologists. A report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed most of Ventura County, including the Ojai Valley, moving from extreme to exceptional drought, a worst-case condition. 


Judge asks for better way to settle water war 

Aug. 20

The Los Angeles Superior Court judge in the Ventura River watershed adjudication lawsuit has commented on the proposed physical solution aimed at protecting the watershed, asking if a legislative body such as the Ventura County Board of Supervisors could avoid litigating the complex water dispute between the city of Ventura and thousands of Ojai Valley and Ventura residents.


September, 2021

Kidnapped woman, 20, rescued from car trunk

Sept. 3

An Oxnard man charged with abducting a woman in Mira Monte the night of Aug. 28 appeared in court this week to face kidnapping and other charges. As he drove away, the woman was able to pop open the trunk  and scream for help, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. 


First wolf sighting in Mt. Pinos in 100 years

Sept. 3

For the first time in a century, a wolf has been spotted in the backcountry north of Ojai. Gray wolf OR-93 was captured on film drinking from a water trough on a ranch in the Mt. Pinos area. 


After Thomas Fire, stars align for OVS

Sept. 3

Ahead of the opening of the 2021-22 school year, Ojai Valley School has completed the most ambitious construction project in school history. The school dedicated three new building projects at the OVS Upper Campus, part of a $16.5 million improvement plan to replace buildings lost in the Thomas Fire. 


Forebay cleanout brings more water to lake

Sept. 10

Ahead of the next big storm, Casitas Municipal Water District is readying a facility that provides roughly one-third of the water that enters Lake Casitas. This year’s work will include the removal and relocation of approximately 15,000 additional cubic yards of material, most of which will be placed on Casitas property west of the forebay. 


National forests closed due to wildfire risk 

Sept. 10

The U.S. Forest Service ordered the closure of all but one of the national forests in California from Aug. 31 through Sept. 17. “We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. 


Community celebrates life of Gray Duncan 

Sept. 17

Gray Duncan, beloved and longtime Nordhoff High School ceramics teacher, passed away Aug. 29 and will be honored with a memorial service Sunday, Sept. 26 to celebrate his life, his works, and his contributions to the Ojai community. 


Judge awaits ‘combat of experts’ in water battle 

Sept. 24

The judge in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit will wait until Oct. 18, at the earliest, to announce a decision on whether to appoint an independent hydrology expert in the case. 


Casitas Water Adventure take down play structure

Sept. 24

After nearly 24 years of service at the Casitas Water Adventure, the children’s play structure was showing its age. Rust, corrosion and cracks in the structure, waterslides, steps, pool surface and mechanical systems were main areas of concern for Casitas Municipal Water District, which last week dismantled the aging structure. 


October, 2021

‘Zebradillos’ our as council OKs changes to ATP 

Oct. 1

Ojai City council voted in favor of a newly proposed design plan for the ATP Project on Maricopa Highway. The selected design will remove the “zebradillos” and will feature a Class I raised bikeway that will create a shared-use path for both pedestrians and bicyclists, keeping both separate from moving vehicles. 


John Iwata – ‘a man for all seasons’ 

Oct. 1

Many Ojaians remember the brightly colored red and blue Japanese koi flags John Iwata flew at the gardening center he and wife Sally started in 1966 in Ojai’s East End. One of the only Asian-owned businesses in Ojai, Iwata Garden Center, 1314 E. Ojai Ave., was an Ojai favorite, with its large retail nursery, florist, gift shop, landscape business, and fresh, sweet, hand-picked strawberries grown organically on the Iwata family’s half-acre field. 


Tree City gains 50 more oaks 

Oct. 1

The Green Valley Project, a program of the C.R.E.W., has made it a goal to plant 50 native oak trees throughout the Ojai Valley this fall in order to replenish the dwindling oak forest. 


U.S. Forest Service OKs Pine Mountain project

Oct. 8

The U.S. Forest Service approved a controversial plan to cut trees in old-growth forests, removing native chaparral across 755 acres of Pine Mountain. Los Padres National Forest officials hosted a site visit Oct. 14 to the Reyes Peak Forest Health and Fuels Reduction project north of Ojai. 


Ojai Day returns

Oct. 22

Ojai Day returned on Oct. 16 and featured vendors, food, families, and fun along with the traditional mandala painting at the Ojai fountain. 


Ojai Valley News under new ownership 

Oct. 22

On this day, as the Ojai Valley News celebrated its 130th birthday, our flag flies under new ownership. This essential community resource has once again been passed along to a new steward – this time from Bob Daddi, of Down-Home publishing LLC, to Laura Rearwin Ward, of Ojai Media LLC. 


Ojai gets $3 million boost to prepare for firestorm 

Oct. 29

The Ojai Valley Fire Safe Council scored multiple grants to help with fire mitigation throughout the valley. This included a CalFire grant for $2,704,389 with $311,540 in total matches and a State Fire Assistance grant, totaling $326,000 in grants with $50,000 in-kind from the city of Ojai. 


November, 2021

Ocean Defenders make ‘ghost gear’ vanish 

Nov. 5

Every year, an estimated 140,000 marine mammals worldwide die in “ghost gear” – abandoned fishing gear such as nets, lines and traps. 

“That’s turtles, whales, dolphins. And that’s not even counting the lobsters and all the smaller animals,” said Kurt Lieber of Ocean Defenders Alliance. “That’s a staggering number.” 

The solution: an all-volunteer crew of highly skilled, dedicated divers based out of Channel Islands Harbor who go out on the ocean to find and remove the ghost gear.


Co-Leaders to take HELP of Ojai helm

Nov. 5 

After a year of planning, Terri Wolfe, longtime executive director at HELP of Ojai, will be retiring from her leadership role at the end of the year. Taking the helm Jan. 1 will be Megan Telfer and Jayn Walyer, who will serve as co-executive directors. 


Ojai Valley honors veterans

Nov. 12

Ojai Valley marked Veterans Day Nov. 11 with a free breakfast for veterans at the American Legion Hall and a free concert at Libbey Bowl. The event, sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11461, included The Wall of Remembrance, a series of posters honoring hundreds of Ventura County veterans, most of them from the Ojai Valley. 


Diversity headlines Ojai Film Festival’s 22nd year 

Nov. 12

The theme of the 22nd annual Ojai Film Festival was “Enriching the Human Spirit Through Film,” and through providing traditionally marginalized voices with both screen time and the spotlight, the festival has been recognized around the world. 


Council approves tiny-home pilot program 

Nov. 12

On Oct. 26, Ojai City Council approved a two-year moveable tiny home pilot program, allowing up to 10 moveable tiny home pads to be approved per calendar year, with a maximum of 20 units throughout the pilot period. 


Judge asked to settle boundary issues 

Nov. 19

Lawyers for the city of Ventura want to expedite the fixing of watershed and basin boundaries, to take two issues off the table for the phase 1 trial Feb. 14 in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit. 


OUSD development plan gets cool reception 

Nov. 19

Nearly 250 people packed the Boyd Center and lawn Nov. 17, with most speakers opposing Ojai Unified School District’s development proposal for its office headquarters and Chaparral High School at 414 E. Ojai Ave. the development company, SVS DEV LLC, presented their plan which included a 200-room hotel, subterranean parking garage, housing, shops, commercial real estate and more. 


Next phase of Stewart Canyon underway 

Nov. 19

Phase 2 of a project to restore an oak woodland, while lessening the risk of wildfire, is underway in the city of Ojai. The Middle Stewart Canyon Creek Restoration Project will rehabilitate a 10-acre riparian corridor through the removal of invasive trees and plants, and the planting of native species. 


web Ally Mills Backhoe with photos

Ojai Valley News photo by Ally Millls

Randy Davis memorial. 


Loyal, genuine caring – Randy Davis lived right

Nov. 26

“I’ll tell you about Randy Davis,” said Mel Krogh of Ojai. “He was one-of-a-kind.” Davis, 70, passed away unexpectedly Sept. 30. He was operating his backhoe when he suffered a heart attack, according to friends. 


Wolf’s epic journey has very sad ending 

Nov. 26

A gray wolf that had traveled from Oregon to the backcountry of Ventura County has been found dead in Kern County, wildlife officials said Nov. 24. The carcass of OR-93 (his GPS tracking collar number) was found Nov. 10 near Interstate 5, near the town of Lebec, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which determined the wolf was struck by a vehicle. 


OYFunites students with local businesses 

Nov. 26

A bomb-squad robot, SWAT team vehicles and horses from the mounted patrol wowed Matilija Middle School students, who participated in more than 20 workshops hosted by local businesses, artists, and community residents at an event organized by the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation on Nov. 19. 


December, 2021

‘Ojai Warming’ exhibit brings global threat home 

Dec. 3

“The Ojai Valley is ground zero for the effects of climate change,” said Phil White of Ojai, an engineer by trade who has studied the problem and wants to find solutions. 

Curator of the new exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum, “Ojai Warming: Flora and Fauna in the Time of Climate Change,” White cited as examples record temperatures last year of 118 in Ojai and 120 in Oak View. 

“Ventura County and the Ojai Valley are among the fastest-warming areas in the United States,” he said. 


Disaster Evacuations: Sheriff has app 

Dec. 3

When disaster strikes in Ventura County, law enforcement goes door-to-door, or uses loudspeakers, to notify residents about evacuations. But until now, other than handwritten notes, there was no way to track who had been notified and who planned to stay or go. 

Enter a new application developed by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office called Fire Evacuation Survey.


Ojai, Ventura stay together 

Dec. 10

After 1,000 pages of comments, 100 submitted maps, seven public hearings, and five community meetings, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the 2021 supervisorial map containing new district boundaries for the county. Ojai and Ventura will stay together. 


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Ojai Valley News photo by Ken Brown

Nordhoff Head Football Coach Lance Wiggins


Nordhoff football coach steps down

Dec. 10

After serving as Nordhoff High School’s head football coach for the last six seasons, Lance Wiggins announced he is resigning. Wiggins took over the proud football program at a time it was on life support. He quickly turned it around, and the Rangers returned to their winning ways. 


Firehawks find new landing spot a

Dec. 10

The Ventura County Aviation Unit now has a place in the Upper Ojai-Santa Paula area to land its new Firehawk helicopters during wildfires and rescues. On Dec. 7, the Fire Department trained ground crews at a new helispot at Thomas Aquinas College. 


County Fire Chief Lorenzen to retire

Dec. 10

After 31 years with the Ventura County Fire Department, Fire chief Mark Lorenzen will retire in early 2022. Lorenzen, 58, became the department’s 11th fire chief in 2012. He got his start as a firefighter assigned to Battalion 2, which covers the Ojai Valley. “That whole area was my original home,” he said. 


web Carol Buckley Carol and Tarra at Bobs Tire Center

Photo provided

Back together for the first time in more than a decades, elephant sanctuary founder Carol Buckley and Tarra.


Roller-skating elephant back home

Dec. 17

An 11-year custody battle for an elephant who drew the world’s attention to Ojai is over. 

On Nov. 18, a pachyderm named Tarra was reunited with her original owner and trainer, Carol Buckley. The last time Buckley and Tarra were together was in 2010, when Buckley was fired by an elephant sanctuary she co-founded in Tennessee. 

Buckley waited nearly a year to sue to get Tarra back, but it took many court appearances, two formal trials and two appeals by The Elephant Sanctuary, including to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in Buckley’s favor. 


Water suit judge rules on boundaries 

Dec. 17

Parties in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit have resolved two issues in the case ahead of the Feb. 14 start of the phase 1 trial. The two issues – watershed and basin boundaries – were taken off the table during case-management conferences Dec. 9 and Dec. 13 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. 


Wanted felon flings rifles out of truck

Dec. 17

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted parolee who tossed several firearms out of his vehicle in the Oak View area during a high-speed pursuit Dec. 12, authorities said. 

The pursuit continued through the city of Ojai, with a helicopter from the Ventura County Aviation Unit responding to assist, and then eastbound on SR 150 into Upper Ojai. 


Let it rain! 

Dec. 24

A series of storms lingered through the week bringing periods of rain and mountain snow to Ojai and Southern California. 


Services set for Nordhoff grad

Dec. 24

The family of Juan Morales is planning funeral services for the 18-year-old, who graduated from Nordhoff High School in June. Juan died early Dec. 18 when a wrong-way driver crashed head-on into his vehicle as Juan and his passenger headed for home northbound on Highway 101, just south of California Street at about 3 a.m. 


Alan Rains, passes away at 90 

Dec. 24

Alan Rains, 90, who owned and operated Rains Department Store for more than 50 years, passed away peacefully on Dec. 23, according to family members. On Dec. 14, Rains attended the Ojai City Council meeting to accept the Ojai Historic Preservation Lifetime Achievement Award. 


Another COVID-19 challenge

Dec. 24

On Nov. 24, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was reported to the World Health Organization. This new variant was first detected in specimens collected on Nov. 11 in Botswana and on Nov. 14 in South Africa. 


Storms drop 4 inches of rain on Ojai 

Dec. 31

A cold, slow-moving storm brought another 2 to 3 inches of rain to most areas of the Ojai Valley Dec. 28 to 30. The storm, which stalled over Ventura County for most of the day Dec. 29, also dropped low snow in the mountains, prompting the closure of Highway 33 through Los Padres National Forest and I-5 over the Grapevine. 


Community mourns loss of teacher 

Dec. 31

The community is mourning the loss of beloved Matilija Middle School teacher Sheri Usher, who passed away Dec. 22 in a traffic accident traveling home from the Bay Area. Ms. Usher, 56, most recently taught social studies, science and Makerspace at Matilija Middle School. 


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Submitted photo

Plot for nine new houses.


Childhood friends build new home

Dec. 31

“The Mill” is a new housing development in Ojai that broke ground last month. The 1.14-acre property at the corner of Pearl Street and Bald Street was purchased in December 2007 by Peal Street Associates, LLC. The company is owned by partners Craig Young of Craig Young Construction and Dan Poling, owner of Dance Plumbing. 

Nine one-family, single-story, Craftsman-style homes with raised foundations are planned for the property. Each home will be just under 1,200 square feet, according to Young.


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