Nearby streets fill with visitors’ cars
Source of this article, the Thousand Oaks Acorn, April 27, 2017
Wildwood Regional Park might have too much of a good thing.
Drawn to the open-space area by its main attraction, Paradise Falls, weekend crowds quickly overwhelm the small dirt parking lot at the main trailhead at the western end of Avenida de Los Arboles and spill out into the neighborhood.
To visitors, parking a few blocks up the street is a small inconvenience on the path to a rare natural feature.
But to residents of the area, it’s a popularity headache.
Wildwood resident Mark Lichalk took to the podium at the April 20 Conejo Recreation and Park District board of directors meeting seeking a solution.
“It’s infringing on the neighborhood,” he said.
Wildwood Park is owned and managed by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency, which is run jointly by the City of Thousand Oaks and CRPD.
And while Thousand Oaks is a community of 120,000 people, Wildwood actually serves a population of 1 million to 2 million because it is a regional park, CRPD Manager Jim Friedl said.
“Social media posts about the falls are driving the visitors,” he said.
Friedl said the park district has asked hiking and nature websites to refrain from promoting Paradise Falls in an effort to quell traffic, but new posts on other websites have popped up to tout the virtues of the falls.
“It’s like whack-a-mole,” he said.
Maintaining a balance between letting visitors enjoy the falls and keeping its delicate landscape intact is a big challenge as more people come.
A major problem is parking.
According to a survey taken by the park district April 15, the parking lot at the western end of Avenida de Los Arboles was full— with 93 cars—before 10 a.m. on a recent Saturday. Dozens of hikers then began parking on neighborhood streets, despite posted signs informing visitors about additional lots down the street.
Visitors to Wildwood can also access trails to Paradise Falls from Wildflower Playfields and Wildwood Neighborhood Park, as well as Wildwood Elementary School. There is also open street parking with no residential driveways on Canna Street just north of Avenida de Los Arboles.
Safety is another concern.
CRPD administrator Tom Hare said jumping off Paradise Falls is the top search engine result for the park.
“We want people to enjoy Wildwood, but we want them to be safe,” he said.
The water cascading down Paradise Falls includes urban runoff, as it is less than a mile upstream from the Hill Canyon wastewater facility in the Santa Rosa Valley. Posted signs warn visitors of the untreated water, but hikers still venture out into the pool at the base of the falls.
Lichalk said he would like to see hikers better educated about the variety of hiking trails in Thousand Oaks. COSCA manages 40 open space areas with 150 miles of trails.
Wildwood has just 17 of those miles.
“We need to do a better job of getting the word out about places to hike other than Wildwood,” he said.
“I don’t want to deter hikers from coming to Thousand Oaks. I want to distribute them more evenly around our trails, many of which sit empty.”
For a list of open space areas to hike, visit COSCA’s website, www.conejo-openspace.org