Ventura Wild

May 10, 2024 | 0 comments

Natural beauty and abundant open space are integral to the Ojai Valley’s identity. Generations have worked diligently to protect this beautiful place. The Ojai Women’s Fund founders intentionally designated the Environment as one of five focus areas for accepting grant proposals. By awarding a grant to Ventura Wild last year, OWF members underscored our commitment — not just to our Environment but to educating students about this precious resource.

The idea is to expose children to the natural world, thus positively impacting their health and the local environment’s health for yet another generation. Pictured is a Ventura Wild participant and Trudy Trudeau, Education Manager, having fun collecting crayfish in the Ventura River. Crayfish are considered an invasive species due to their voracious appetite for native fish, insects, and tadpoles.

To date this year, Ventura Wild has awarded $4,366 to 17 Ojai Valley families who could not have otherwise sent their children to these highly-regarded, wide-ranging environmental education programs. The $10,000 OWF grant balance will be awarded throughout the upcoming summer and fall sessions. Our grant funds participants from 2 to 10 years old, and every attempt is made to balance the groups by gender. Programs take place in many different habitats. In one program, the group follows a watershed from its source to the ocean, studying linkages and changing habitats. A greenhouse on the 2-acre Hayden Preserve allows kids to learn about and plant native species crucial to habitat preservation. Their pollinator garden is thriving, as are the plants they have transported to other local habitats. One 3-year-old participant planted a California black walnut tree he named ”Walnutty.” Two years later, he is still involved in Ventura Wild programs. He returns to water and visit the tree, which has grown to his height!

The range of Ventura Wild activities is wild. There are birds, bugs, and so many other creatures to observe and study. Participants often see Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, White-throated Swifts, Monarch butterflies, Greater Roadrunners, and Coyotes, to name a few. California Condors even make an appearance from time to time! The kids learn how to tie-dye with plants, make fires for roasting apples and whittle wood, make yucca rope, and so much more.

Trudy Trudeau, Ventura Wild’s energetic leader, is an Ojai native. Trudy says her passion for the environment was seeded in childhood when she explored the Ojai Valley’s open spaces and surrounding wilderness areas. “As a kid, I celebrated the infrequent rains by swimming in the mud and getting hosed off by my parents,” she laughs. “Interaction with the natural world around me was a huge part of my upbringing.”  Trudy went on to work for a decade in wildlife conservation and rehabilitation before pivoting to outdoor education. As with those who lead other OWF grantee organizations, Trudy and her staff are enthusiastic about the mission and often collaborate with local nonprofits. Says one mother of a Ventura Wild program participant, “Ventura Wild’s mentors offer a safe space for my child to engage with nature in our community. Everyone is so knowledgeable and has a zeal for showing our kids how to be good stewards of our environment.”

On May 19th, at Camp Comfort Park, Ventura Wild will celebrate its 15th Anniversary of fostering the next generation of environmental stewards. Visit their website for details on how to register. (It’s free!)