Experiencing Ventura’s Parks and Recreation

 

Ventura County is rated as one of the best places in the world to live and its diverse range of public parks, beaches and national forests make the county a great place to enjoy all kinds of recreational activities in nature.

The County sports some of the best beaches in Southern California and is home to some of the best spots for water-sports. But a quick drive into the nearby hills also brings you to a rich atmosphere of mountain sports including camping, hunting, ranching and hiking. This Photo Essay explores the things people do in Ventura County that rely on natural conditions.

As a very popular beach town on the Southern California coast, most people who recreate here come for one water-sport or another. Surfing, though, with Ventura’s famous year-round waves, is what people come here to do most.

A quick stroll down the beach or around the harbor will allow you to see that people also kayak, use stand-up-paddle boards (SUP’s), or jet skis, scuba-dive, go fishing, or boating by sail or motor.

It was my intention to look for the other things people do in this county in addition to the water sports that drive this beautiful town. As an avid outdoorsman, I inevitably found some of these activities without trying. When I innately go to parks or natural environments for my own rest and relaxation, I’ve found there is a very real and very active culture of people who, like me, also enjoy dry land and its activities.

The incredible 17-mile long bike trail that connects Ojai and Ventura is a popular place to find cyclists and runners and the path intersects a few of the many E.P. Foster Family parks, where other people can be found picnicking, walking their dog, swinging their children on the playsets, or playing Frisbee golf. On a typical Monday afternoon, I too can be found at one of these parks swinging in my hammock reading my Bible or doing homework. I find however, that I split my leisurely outside time between these local parks and far up into the hills at Rose Valley Falls.

The Rose Valley is a very popular spot for camping, hiking or mountain biking its trails, sightseeing at the waterfall, hunting deer or fishing in one of the ponds. All of this is accessible by the world famous Highway 33 that connects this rich oasis to Ojai and the people of Ventura County.

A little east of the city of Ventura amongst sprawling hills of orchards and agricultural landscapes, many people ranch horses. I found an immediate passion for photographing horses and their riders due to my county farm upbringing in Colorado.

My first paid job at the age of 14 was at a horse ranch managing and feeding the 30-some horses that boarded there. There is a little bit of me in all of the photographs of this essay. Growing up in a town of nearly 10,000, it’s not hard to understand my shock of moving to a town of 100,000 and living just an hour from Los Angeles.

It was not only a necessity for me to find something interesting and close to my own passions to photograph for school, but it has become crucial for me work on this story which has allowed me the chance to escape the city and do homework. My passion shines through honesty, because of my desperation for the solitude and sanity I gain when in these environments.

I aim to photograph only activities which rely on the condition and location of the natural environment, such as the weather, surf conditions, hunting and fishing season, etc. And experiencing them through the lens of my camera is enough to find that sanity.

When it’s all said and done, my homework is turned in, its too dark to read from a hammock in a tree, and the archery range closes, I usually find myself at one of two places, the Ventura Pier with a fishing rod in my hands or in Rose Valley Falls cooking my dinner over a fire.

It was my goal to represent the people in my photographs as searching for something, sometimes by literally looking away at the horizon or using their body language during to replicate the message that I am not the only one who recreates for this reason.

I hope that this approach reads through in the photographs. I am always looking to the stars or at the horizon, searching, and never quite satisfied with where I am, longing for a sense of belonging and contentment, qualities I seek out in my recreational activities. During my stay here on the Golden Coast, I am following my dream to become a better photographer and visual storyteller.