Page 11 - R.G. Percy

Coyote Creek, which came from the Santa Ana Valley and the Casitas Pass, and the Ventura River, come together about the middle of Foster Park. Between them is what was called the Island, although truly it was not an island. It was covered with sycamore and cottonwood trees and some willows. At the upper end was the original Casitas Spring, a clear, running spring of cold water. In those days both the Coyote Creek and the Ventura River were clear, clean, good trout streams. Foster Park was a beautiful place.

Mr. Foster had many ideas for making it even more beautiful, and available for Public enjoyment. The spring was cleaned out and deepened, and then a rock walled fountain was built, with the water flowing out from a spout about three feet above the ground. This was before the day of bottled water in Ventura and many people came to the spring with five gallon containers to get the water from the spring.

The so called Island was cleared of under brush and made reliable for campers, and for a number of years many local Venturans took advantage of it and used it for camping in the summer time, some spending their vacations there with their children.

Each summer we would build a dam across the river just below where the two streams came together to make a swimming hole for users of the Park. Everything was free to the Public, and was to remain that way. These were the plans of Mr. Foster, which I carried out with the help of our Park employees.

Seaside Park had been only a mile race track with a grandstand when the Fosters bought it and gave it to the County. It had been surrounded by a tight, six foot high board fence and there were stalls for the horses. Otherwise it was open space with no other improvements. Before the Forestry Commission was formed, Mr. Foster had had a windbreak planted along the ocean side, because of the cold west wind from the ocean. The young trees, cypress and eucalyptus trees had been planted thickly in a space about thirty feet wide. They were protected from the wind by the stalls and the high board fence. When I became Forester these trees were higher than the fence, and we could now begin the real improvement of the Park.

Mr. Foster had known John McLaren who had developed San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Mr. Foster's idea for the Park was to make it a miniature of Golden Gate Park. At his suggestion I sent to San Francisco for a book on Park planning and development. Many varieties of trees and shrubbery were planted which would stand the salt air from the ocean. Instead of the mile race track, a half mile race track was built in the center, and the infield planted to a bermuda grass lawn. Many trees were planted and blue grass lawns, places for picnics on the lawns and among the trees. Tennis courts were established. By the time that I remained as County Forester in 1919 we were well on the way of making Mr. Foster's dream of a miniature Golden Gate Park a reality.

(Look at it today after it was eventually turned over to the State by the County. The trees that we planted have been bulldozed out. In their place are a lot of County Fair buildings, empty for most of the year. If Mr. Foster could see it today I am sure that he would regret ever having given it to the County. What it is now was nothing like what he wanted it to be. Everything which we planned and did is gone. I too had been enthusiastic about carrying out his plans for the parks and for planting the Highway trees. Today there is little to show for what had been done). Only one row of Palms remains today.

In the meantime, all of our intentions of planting trees along the State Highway and County roads were being carried on under the Forestry Commission. In 1955 when Jack Morrison and I had organized the Ventura County Historical Society and I became the first President, we had a Pioneer Picnic. A. C. Hardison of Santa Paula was the only one of the original Forestry Commission still living. He came to the picnic although the year before I had attended the celebration of his 90th birthday.