To create and maintain public gardens for the preservation, education, cultural contribution and enhancement of the entire community.
The Ventura Botanical Gardens is in the process of becoming the treasure a small group of Ventura residents first dreamed of late in 2005. They came together to begin formulating plans for a world-class botanical garden showcasing and preserving native plants and providing educational, recreational, and cultural enhancement for the Ventura coastal community. Grant Park, set in the foothills above Ventura’s City Hall, presented the perfect site, with its breathtaking 360-degree view encompassing the coastline, mountains, and lush agricultural greenery. We engaged the eminent landscape architectural firm of Mia Lehrer + Associates to develop our Vision Plan, and in 2011 signed a lease/option with the City of Ventura for 107 of the 109 acres of parkland. In 2015, the lease was signed to create a public/private partnership with the City of Ventura.
We’ve done the field studies to develop a compilation of existing site conditions and a baseline environmental assessment, and are moving forward to complete other requirements and continue the design process. At the same time, we're continuing to work on restoration of California native plant species and acquisition of new plant specimens. We've already transformed the park with our first major venture, the Demonstration Trail that begins behind City Hall and climbs gently for nearly a mile, providing a number of new viewpoints with spectacular vistas of the city, the sea, and the Channel Islands beyond. Additionally, in January of 2014, planting of the Chilean Garden commenced.
At completion, the Ventura Botanical Gardens will include gardens representing the earth’s five Mediterranean climate zones, as well as public gathering areas and facilities for educational programs, botanic laboratories and collection spaces, along with a range of amenities including a book and gift shop, plant sales area, dining facilities, and event center. The Gardens will also offer a natural canvas to showcase regional and international environmental sculpture, stonework, and other visual arts.
We have a large and growing number of members who support the Gardens on an annual basis. In addition to dues, we are funded through private donations and bequests, corporate sponsorships, grants, and proceeds from events like the Annual Spring Garden Tour. If you would like to make a donation and be a part of Ventura’s history, you will also be leaving a lasting legacy. For donations, click here.
As we continue to develop the gardens, the currently rustic location is open from dawn to dusk for hiking, running, picnicking or enjoying the vistas of the coastline, the Channel Islands, and the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to the trail entrance behind City Hall, other unmarked entrances for Grant Park and the VBG include Summit Drive, Ferro Drive, and Brakey Road (map).
We have a wonderful roster of members including Master Gardeners, landscape architects, botanists, wildlife biologists, horticulturists, business and community leaders and neighbors from all walks of life. We hope that you’ll join us. For membership, click here. For a more complete look at our plans, this link will take you to our Vision Plan (PDF).
Please join us by making a contribution or volunteering your time to work on special projects. We welcome your talent, your enthusiasm and your support.
Our botanical collection consists of over 160 species predominantly from the Mediterranean climate regions of the world, mixed with a few more exotic sub-tropical species that remain on the site from prior to the development of the gardens. Within the collection is a small Mediterranean pine forest consisting of about 60 trees that have been georeferenced and botanically identified, and are the basis for our Mediterranean collection. A small Eucalyptus forest is also a part of the collection and comprises 7 species that form a mixture of ornamental and weedy Eucalyptus. The "Ramble" is a large swath running through the center of the gardens that will represent native California plant communities in a naturalistic presentation and which currently consists of a mixture of coastal sage scrub and chaparral species.
Ventura Botanical Gardens currently has three main focuses with respect to development of our collection. First, we actively continue to remove invasive plant species across the 109 acre site of the gardens. Second, we continue the restoration of coastal sage scrub and chaparral, which are native California plant communities. Through a combination of seeding and plant installations we are building plant collections and in doing so restoring/creating habitat in these areas. Third, we continue to expand our acquisition of Chilean plant specimens.
In June of 2012, the shovel hit the dirt as work began on the Demonstration Trail, the first step in the physical development of the Gardens. Opened to the community in October of 2012, the trail begins behind City Hall and climbs gently for nearly a mile. It passes along an historic stonewall and has additional hand-built stone wall enhancements. The trail is six feet wide, with a decomposed, compacted granite surface. The first majestic viewpoint is wheelchair accessible.
The trail offers remarkable views of downtown Ventura and 180° vistas of the Pacific Coastline, the Marina, Oxnard and Mandalay Bay to the east, Surfer's Point, the Rincon to the west, and the Channel Islands.
On October 20, 2012, the trail officially opened and is now a popular hiking destination. We are asking the community to keep bikes off the trails as they may damage the surfaces and add to erosion issues.
Park in the upper parking lot at City Hall, the trailhead starts there.
VBG’s Chilean Gardens feature hundreds of plants, including giant terrestrial bromeliads called Puyas, Acacia caven trees and an array of succulents and cacti all chosen for their beauty, extreme drought tolerance and non-invasiveness.
Planting began in February of 2014 and upon completion our Chilean garden will be the largest garden of Chilean plants in the world outside of Chile. They will provide efficient erosion resistance, a major goal of the Gardens, as well as animal habitat enhancement.
The Chilean Garden frames VBG’s Demonstration Trail, offering dynamic views of the coastline, mountains and western Ventura County.
The BIG STEP Development Campaign is an important part of taking the Gardens to the next level. The funding from this campaign does, and will continue to enhance the trail, augment it, and provide for trail maintenance and next step planning.
On Friday, June 30, 2014, the first of our donors was honored by a beautiful stone bench combination. As families and individuals engage in supporting the gardens, unique and artistic benches are being developed and placed along the trail. A number of viewpoints are still available. Each offers spectacular panoramic ocean views or views into the arroyos. Many of the sites will be vantage points over future gardens to be developed.
Please, walk the trail, stop at the designated points, observe a moment of silence, lgaze out towards the ocean, view the arroyo, breathe in, feel the tranquility this place creates.
If you are interested in helping us take "The BIG STEP" there are naming opportunities ranging from $10K to $300K. Please contact Jonell McLain.
Together, we need to do this now!
Meet Our Staff!
Joe Cahill, Executive Director
(805) 232-3113, ext. 0
Dr. Cahill is a botanist who has over 20 years of professional experience in a combination of botanic gardens, conservation non-profits and NGOs, compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the horticulture industry. He has contributed in a leadership capacity to the Ventura Botanical Gardens since 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of California Riverside and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan and is an adjunct professor at California Lutheran University.
Maureen Johnson, Database Administrator
(805) 232-3113, ext. 2
A proud fifth generation local, Maureen was drawn to the Ventura Botanical Gardens as a volunteer in 2013. She felt the importance of giving back to her community. In 2014, she became part of the staff of VBG, as our Database Administrator. Her background includes treasurer of a local school, then full charge bookkeeper for a local business for 17 years. She is currently a member in good standing of the Bookkeeper Association of Ventura County.
Ginny Claborn, Fundraising Administrator
(805) 232-3113, ext. 5
With a lengthy career in the non-profit industry, Ginny has extensive experience in helping donors invest in their community. Over the years, she has been involved in local, state and national programs. She has volunteered with the Ventura Botanical Gardens as a coordinator for the annual CAST event and contributed greatly to the success of that event. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Business and Management from Azusa Pacific University.