A brief history of the Conejo Recreation and Parks District
Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, November 18, 2022
1962: Voters create the Conejo Recreation and Park District with more then 80% in favor. Luther Schwich, Marvin Burrow, Roy Dehm, Joan McGillis and Donald Roberts are elected as the first board of directors.
1964: On Sept. 24, voters side with incorporation, officially creating the city of Thousand Oak. T.O. narrowly defeats name choice No. 2: “Conejo City.” The fist council: Robert Talley, John Tapking, Alex Fiore, David Betts and Lee Williams.
1967: Arts Council of the Conejo Valley is born. A year later, in 1968, the nonprofit hosts its first Spring Festival of Arts at Old Meadows Center; City approves master-planned community of Wildwood, setting aside 1320 acres of open space
1968: Janss Corp. donates the hillside property where the Hillcrest Center sits today.
1969: Tex Ward is appointed general manager of CRPD upon the retirement of Frank Ray. He would hold the position for 38 years, becoming one of the key architects of the city’s “Ring oof Green.” Earlier this year, CRPD dedicated Tx Ward Point overlooking Rancho Potrero.
1969: American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 9 begins its first season with four teams and just 60 players. After six years at Old Meadows Park, the youth soccer league relocates to Conejo Creek Park South, where it remains to this day. As of 2006, Region 9 featured nearly 2800 kids and 300 teams.
1970: The Thousand Oaks High School Community Pool is constructed in an agreement with Oxnard Union High School District The pool is financed by and 8-cent tax levied in 1964 by CRPD.
1972: CRPD receives a federal grant to provide volunteer service opportunities to seniors. The money is used to create the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program, which is still in existence today.
1973: Newbury Park AYSO Region 42 is founded with 17 teams and 220 players. By 2006, Region 42 operates on several fields and has over 230 teams and 2100 players.
1974: Over 1700 acres of land that would on day be Widowhood Regional Park is acquired. The popular nature park with canyons, mesas, waterfalls, oak canopies and sage-covered hills is to this day one of CRPD’s biggest attractions.
1975: A building purchased by the city from Janss Corp. is moved to property donated by Louis and Kathleen Goebel. It serves as a place for senor activity until the Goebel Center opens years later; CRPD and the city form the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) to protect and manage natural open space.
1976: Grand Union Hotel is rebuilt and reopened as the Stagecoach Inn Museum.
1981: Western movie hero Joel McCrea and his wive, actress Frances Dee, donated 75 acres along the Norwegian Grade to COSCA as a wildlife preserve.
1982: The Thousand Oaks Library opens to great fanfare. Later renamed in honor of City Manager Grant Brimhall, the library features a 200,000-book collection. In 2006, the library would undergo a 22,000-square-foot expansion with space devoted to a new Children’s Library.
1987: City of Thousand Oaks approves agreement transferring 228 acres of the Wildwood Mesa from Orange Builders to COSCA.
1988: CRPD moves from the Civic Center on “fireworks hill” to an office building on Boardwalk Avenue just off Thousand Oaks Blvd. The say would be short-ived and the administrative offices would move again in 1990.
1989: The Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee (COSCA, renamed to the Conejo Open Space Action Committee in 2020) is formed to provide recommendations for location and use of open space trails.
1990: Goebel Senior Adult Center opens its doors. The 17,000-square-foot building in front of the Conejo Creek Park North is operated by CRPD after being constructed by the city; CRPD moves from Boardwalk to Park Place on Wilbur Road. The district would move again in 2002 back to the Civic Center on fireworks hill, rededicated as Hillcrest Center.
1993: CRPD, the city and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) buy 640 acres of residentially zoned property known as Broome Ranch out of probate at a steep discount. The pristine land south of Newbury Park had been slated for homes and a golf course. It is today protected in perpetuity.
1994: CRPD is recognized as one of the nation’s finest recreation and park agencies at the annual conference of the National Recreation and Park Association. This recognition would continue in 1995 and 1996.
1996: The park district celebrated paying off bonds issued in 1970 by burning the bonds during the Labor Day Concert in the Park.
2001: CRPD cuts the ribbon on a skate park in front of Borchard Community Center. Borchard Skatepark would give rise to a generation of Conejo Valley skaters.
2002: Property owners throughout the district approve a benefit assessment to generate funds for capital improvements and improved maintenance at the parks.
2003: County of Ventura transfers 426-acre Oakbrook Regional Park near Westlake Blvd. and Lang Ranch Parkway to CRPD along with a Native American interpretive center, village and trail. The center would later become Chumash Indian Museum.
2008: Las Flores Community Garden, which opened in 2000, increased in size to an acre, and continues to promote education of and involvement in organic gardening.
2009: The Ant Hill (as small hill made with artificial grass) at Thousand Oaks Community Park is completed, providing a fun area for kids to slide on; The year-round Community Pool at Cal Lutheran University is built and financed through a partnership between the district, CLU and the City of Thousand Oaks.
2010: Rabbit Flats Disc Golf Course opens near T.O. High School. The 27-hole course, constructed almost exclusively by volunteers, pays homage to T.O. as the birthplace of disc golf.
2011: The Conejo Creek South Bike Trail opens through a cooperative effort between CRPD, the city and school district. The trail creates a connection between Gainsborough and Janss roads.
2012: the Conejo Canyons Bridge is dedicated. Eleven feet wide and spanning 145 feet, the bridge connects Wildwood Regional Park with Conejo Canyons Open Space.
2013: Solar-panel-covered carports are installed at Borchar, Dos Vientos and Thousand Oaks community parks and Conejo Creek South. The solar carports supply 45% of the district’s electrical needs, saving the district nearly $100,000 annually.
2014: Play Conejo Gratitude Circle at Conejo Creek North is dedicated to hour individuals who have made a major impact on CORD. The inaugural honorees are former GM Tex Ward and Mark Jacobsen, who served on the park board for over 40 years.
2018: The Hill and Woolsey fires carve a path of death and destruction through the Conejo Valley. North Ranch Neighborhood Park is badly burned along with thousands of acres of open space. COSCA loses a bridge in Conejo Canyons Open Space.
2019: “The strongest oaks have the deepest roots.” The healing garden is dedicated on the first anniversary of the Borderline shooting. The garden at Conejo Creek North is meant to offer a place for contemplation, meditation and prayer; Lease agreements between the city and CRPD for the Alex Fiore Thousand Oaks Teen Center and the Goebel Adult Community Center are extended for 20 years, and the city approves a $2.7-million grant for Teen Center/Goebel Center upgrades.