Bridging the gap between Thousand Oaks and Santa Rosa Valley open space

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Source of this article – Ventura County Star, October 19, 2011

By Rachel McGrath

Members of the nonprofit Conejo Open Space Foundation watched from a hillside Wednesday morning as contractors lowered a pedestrian bridge into place, linking open space nestled between Thousand Oaks and the Santa Rosa Valley.

Workers use a crane to assemble a much larger crane as they prepare to install a new bridge over the Conejo Creek between Wildwood Park and Conejo Canyons on Wednesday.

The group cheered as the bridge settled into place a little before 10 a.m.”It was very, very exciting,” said foundation member Julie Osborn of Thousand Oaks. “It was just like watching a giant Erector Set.”This bridge connects two areas of open space that were inaccessible from each other, so it’s connectivity in the best sense of the word.”The 11-foot-wide, 145-foot- long bridge connects Wildwood Park with Conejo Canyons and is the largest capital project undertaken by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency, a joint-powers agency between the city of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District.

“We’ve been working up to this for two years, so it’s really exciting to see it actually come to fruition,” said agency manager Kristin Foord.

The bridge crosses the creek downstream from the Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant and can be accessed from the county’s Santa Rosa Park on Hill Canyon Road.

In addition to providing public access to existing trails, the bridge provides an entryway to a new mile-long flat trail along the creek that will be accessible for those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, Foord said. It also will facilitate access to the open space for park ranger vehicles and a small fire truck.

The bridge arrived in the Conejo Valley in two sections on a flatbed truck, and workers joined the parts Tuesday.

From 7 a.m. Wednesday, city and park district officials joined Foord to watch and wait as crews assembled the large crane brought in to lift the bridge into place.

Once the crane was set with counterweights, the 80,000-pound bridge was lifted into the air, guided by workers at either end.

“Once it gets into place, I exhale. Until then, I am holding my breath,” said Diana Lockyer, an engineering associate with the Thousand Oaks Public Works Department who was overseeing the construction site.

The crane rotated the bridge and then slowly lowered it among some eucalyptus trees onto concrete abutments, where it will be bolted into place.

The pedestrian bridge will not be open for public use for several weeks, Foord said, as work remains to be done.

The cost of the projects is about $264,000 — $100,000 for the slightly used bridge, which originally had been built for a Colorado agency, and $164,000 for construction and placement. The Conejo Open Space Foundation contributed $35,000 in donations from individuals and businesses.

Reid Kupfer guides a new bridge into place across Conejo Creek on Wednesday. The bridge, paid for by Conejo Open Space Conservancy Agency and the Conejo Open Space Foundation, will allow hikers, bicyclists and equestrians to move freely between Wildwood Park with Santa Rosa Park.

“I’m really happy for the open-space advocates,” said Jim Friedl, general manager of the park district, who was on- site. “It’s going to make Wildwood and the Conejo Canyons blend together, and folks will be able to enter Wildwood and walk all the way over to the western plateau and back and forth.”

Mark Burley, who sits on the Santa Rosa Valley Municipal Advisory Council and is president of the nonprofit Santa Rosa Valley Trails Inc., was happy to see the bridge go in.

“What’s wonderful is that this will now give people from the Santa Rosa Valley side access to Hill Canyon,” he said. “Up until now, you have to go through water, through the stream, which was not very good for people on bicycles or on foot, so this will now make one of the most beautiful areas around the Conejo Valley available for people to hike into.”