Challenge encourages exploration of Conejo Valley trails

A new online event to promote the miles of public trails in the Conejo Valley has been launched by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency.

Source of this Article: The Ventura County Star, December 6, 2011

The Conejo Open Space Challenge seeks to encourage people to explore the trails system and make it a social experience by posting experiences and achievements online at a website that allows users to upload GPS data.

The initiative is the idea of David Malwitz, an avid mountain biker and hiker who moved to Ventura County two years ago from the East Coast.

He said the goal is to encourage people to explore the trails managed by the agency and be inspired to donate money to help the nonprofit Conejo Open Space Foundation or volunteer.

“I wanted to do something to give back,” said Malwitz, 32, a research scientist at Amgen in Thousand Oaks. “I want to raise awareness of COSCA and that there’s an agency that manages the trails.”

Malwitz suggested that hikers, mountain bikers, runners and equestrians complete 14 trails and use the Web platform Strava to post experiences online and follow others who are exploring the trails.

Karl Bowers of Simi Valley rides at Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks toward Lizards Rock to enjoy a view of the city. Bowers has done all 14 trails in the Conejo Open Space Challenge on foot, and is now doing all 14 again on his mountain bike. The challenge is an online event by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency to promote the miles of public trails in the Conejo Valley. Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

About 50 people have registered for the challenge at Strava.com.

Open-space agency manager Kristin Foord and the agency’s Trails Advisory Committee put together a subcommittee that identified 14 trails ranging from just under one mile to 3½ miles that would be accessible to all users and represent diverse areas of the trail system.

“We think it’s a great idea and a great way to encourage trail users of all kinds and to encourage them to explore trails that they may not have used before,” Foord said.

The challenge is not a race, she added.

“It’s about people using the trails at their own pace and in their own time,” she said. “It’s about completing each segment and not about racing. We don’t allow races in open space because it would interfere with other people’s enjoyment.”

Although the challenge is not about speed, some enthusiasts have been quick to embrace it and quick to complete it.

Karl Bowers, a geologist who lives in Simi Valley, has run all 14 trails, for a total of 18 miles.

“I got pretty fired up about it, and I ran all of them in a couple of days,” he said. “Now I am going back around on the bike.”

He said the challenge gave him the chance to find a trail he hadn’t traveled before, between Wendy Drive and Reino Road in Newbury Park, and he said he’ll probably use it more often.

“I think what the event shows is the real variety of trails we have here, and while there isn’t a time or an order you have to do them in, it’s fun to piece them together and make your own challenge out of the challenge,” he said.

He says being able to use Strava is an added motivation because it makes the challenge a group activity and a group experience.

“It’s kind of like Facebook. People follow you, and you follow them,” he said. “It allows you to turn all your routes into a competition with your friends, or you can join groups on there, and you can also use it to see your own results and see how you are performing compared with previous efforts as well as find new routes that other people have posted on there.”

For more information about the challenge, go to the agency website, http://www.conejo-openspace.org/news_and_events.htm, or go to the challenge page on Strava at http://www.strava.com/events/187/news.

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