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Ocean-friendly ideas flow during Ventura landscape tour

VENTURA, Calif. – With a serious drought in California that’s prompting water-conservation mandates, there’s a greater-than-ever need for landscaping that’s friendly to the ocean, according to the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

Creating landscaping that doesn’t use much water is an important part of the message of Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program, said Tyrone LaFay, of the foundation that’s devoted to protecting the ocean.

But it’s even more important to capture rainwater when it does fall so polluted runoff doesn’t foul the ocean, LaFay said.

A group of 15 people took a tour Saturday in Ventura’s midtown area to see examples, both good and bad, of what homeowners have done to address runoff issues in their yards.

LaFay, co-chairman of Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program, said workshops are offered about twice a year to introduce people to the concepts of CPR: conservation, permeability and retention.

LaFay said a variety of tools are available to homeowners, including replacing grass with mulch; planting vegetation that is native, drought-tolerant or adapted to a Mediterranean climate; and capturing rainwater. Ultimately, the idea is to retain as much water as possible before it runs off, bound for the ocean.

Southern California’s climate is marked by extended periods of drought interspersed with intense periods of heavy rain. As Ocean Friendly Gardens coordinator Paul Herzog pointed out, the idea historically in the region has been to channel rain off the streets and into the ocean as quickly as possible. But after an extended period of drought, the ground is covered with pollutants and the first three-quarters to 1 inch of rainfall carries so much pollution into the ocean that beaches are often closed because of health hazards from the runoff.

Among the features of an Ocean Friendly Garden are sloped culverts called bioswales where water will pool. The bioswales can be lined with rocks and certain types of plants that will filter the water slowly before it seeps into the ground, recharging aquifers and nourishing the soil.

As tour participants walked down Channel Drive in Ventura, they stopped at the home of Thomas and Cecilia Hanna, where the front yard was filled with a bed of mulch interspersed with various plants. Cecilia Hanna said her sons Christopher and Adrian had spent the summer tilling the yard and putting in the mulch and plants.

Herzog pointed out that the Hannas had done a good job on the yard, but there was room for improvement. There was no bioswale and some of the plants were invasive, Herzog said.

Christopher Hanna, who worked on the yard as a summer project before heading off to teach in Goleta, said it is frustrating to go to garden supply stores seeking information about plants to purchase because the salespeople often don’t know much more than he does. He was excited by the Ocean Friendly Gardens information.

Betsy Manninen, whose home on Del Camino Avenue was used as the gathering place for the neighborhood walk, said she and her husband, Scott, decided to create an Ocean Friendly Garden in their yard after working on a project at Will Rogers Elementary School. In that project, water-conservation measures were incorporated by a group of volunteers in an effort involving the Midtown Community Council, Surfrider and other organizations.

“We wanted to do that in our own yard,” she said.


For information about how to get Ocean Friendly Garden certification, maps of yards that have been transformed and more, go online to

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