It's official: Ventura County is now home to the 23rd Cal State campus.
If you don't believe it, just look at the freeway sign unveiled Thursday at a ceremony marking the transfer of the former Camarillo State Hospital property to the Cal State University system: "California State University Channel Islands, Next Exit."
The green-and-white freeway marker, the first of up to a dozen signs that will point the way to the new campus, made its debut before more than 100 elected officials and civic leaders on hand to watch university officials formally adopt the hospital complex into the CSU family.
Although years away from launching a four-year campus, officials used the event to reflect on the 30-year campaign to create the campus and to urge university boosters to keep up the good work.
"This is a very proud moment for the California State University," CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed said moments after signing the paperwork completing the transaction.
The property had been under the state Department of Developmental Services, which for more than 60 years operated what was considered one of the preeminent mental institutions in the nation.
The state hospital was mothballed in July of last yearwith an eye toward creation of the college campus.
"This location is as rich in history as it is in promise for the future," Reed told university supporters. "It represents the best of our hopes and dreams as we build a new campus for a new century."
The change in ownership--an official transaction between Reed and Anne Sheehan, secretary of the state and consumer services agency--was accompanied by a standing ovation.
"This is truly your university and you should be very proud of it," said trustee Jim Considine, an Ojai resident and longtime supporter of a local Cal State campus.
"This is just the beginning," he said. "The success of this university is going to be dependent largely on you and your continued support. But thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this dream come true."
The ceremony was filled with the requisite presentations and proclamations.
State Sen. Cathie Wright's office presented Channel Islands President Handel Evans with a California flag to fly over the new campus. The office of Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) gave Evans a certificate and promised a United States flag that has flown over the Capitol.
Assemblyman Nao Takasugi (R-Oxnard), on behalf of himself and Assemblyman Brooks Firestone (R-Los Olivos), handed over a certificate of recognition.
But it was state Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo) who produced the biggest gift of all. Tugging on a gray tarp, the longtime university booster unveiled the university's first freeway sign. He promptly pulled out a rag and gave it a good cleaning.
"There's nothing left to be said," he told the crowd. "This is truly a historic day for Ventura County."
Within an hour, California Department of Transportation workers had planted the sign along the southbound lanes of the Ventura Freeway just before the Las Posas Road offramp.
The rest of the signs are expected to go up along the freeway and other local roadways by the middle of next month.
Also by that time, Cal State officials expect to have begun a yearlong effort to transform a number of the Spanish-style buildings on the property into the dozens of classrooms and offices necessary to launch the inaugural phase of the university.
"I want you to know that I think of this campus as a gift," Reed said. "Not only to the people of Ventura County, but to the people of California. In fact, I can see this campus becoming a jewel in the crown of the California State University system."