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Park Pleasures

Tidily landscaped Conejo Creek North offers three beautiful areas.

August 10, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If that neat-freak character played by Jack Lemmon in "The Odd Couple" had his own park, it would be Conejo Creek North Park in Thousand Oaks.

The city, which was incorporated in 1964, has managed to combine a number of community needs on this pristine 32-acre site covered with giant oaks and sycamores.

Not only are there plenty of park and plenty of parking (219 spaces), there are also the Grant R. Brimhall Library, the Goebel Senior Adult Center and the Teen Center.

And as advertised, there is a real creek, plus a separate 720-foot-long man-made waterway.

The basic rules are posted near the entrance. For example, guns are not allowed, which should keep the ducks, lizards, squirrels and little kids happy. Model airplanes that fly are OK, but only in certain areas. And the powers that be offer no prejudice toward pets--both dogs and cats must be on a leash.

The first designated area in Conejo Creek North is Willow Bend. Like everywhere else within the park, it's immaculately landscaped. There are lots of healthy rock roses, a sadly underutilized plant native to the Mediterranean that grows well in this area. Drought-resistant and covered with pink or white flowers (much like single-petal roses), the rock roses are greening away in the summer sun, but the plants growing in the shade are flowering.

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Willow Bend features a large picnic area--a number of spotless benches on a large concrete slab shaded by a patio cover--with a capacity of 75 people. The barbecue technology is there, with a cooking area that includes food preparation tables and sinks.

Given the season, Mother Nature's creek is drying up, but a few little pools remain, filled with a bunch of happy ducks.

The second designated area is called Lakeside, and a fine example of truth in advertising it is. It has another large covered concrete slab that's barbecue-ready, with more rows of immaculate gray tables and benches and a capacity of 400. There's also a stage in one corner for some special musical or motivational moments.

And yes, there is a small lake. Between it and the picnic area stands a healthy, red crape myrtle, a flowering tree that can take the heat. One would think the smart ducks would be hanging out here, but they apparently have better things to do.

Children, however, like the spot, but they must stay dry: The rules are set in stone, literally. Carved into a rock in very readable print are the words "no swimming or wading."

There are trails, bridges and adjacent lawn areas where moms and toddlers can chill out in the shade. There are also kiddie playgrounds with the usual equipment, including a clever, 5-foot-tall tick-tack-toe game. There's also a large volleyball area complete with burning sand. In addition to all the tall trees, numerous shrubs including abelias and moreas line the walkways.

From the lake, a man-made stream cascades down a small waterfall and heads west toward another lake and another area, Creekside, which comes complete with a fountain. This is the preferred hangout for the smart ducks.

As for the humans, Creekside is another large picnic area with a capacity of 200.

Conejo Creek North also has eight restrooms, equally spotless. For the lazy, there are 24 benches strategically placed throughout the park from which can be seen joggers using the 2/3-mile trail. The park opens early and closes at dusk unless otherwise posted.

The price is the ever-affordable free, except for some groups that reserve space. Reservations are required for groups of 50 or more who want to use the park.

Those wishing to use a specific area should also make reservations. Call 381-2733 for further information.

Conejo Creek North Park is a district park and just the completed quadrant of an ambitious larger project, Conejo Creek Park, that is planned for 132 total acres. Such a park is designed to provide residents within a 30-mile radius relief from the noise and congestion of the city without having to travel a great distance. Conejo Creek North was finished about 10 years ago.

A dog park (What? No cat park?) is proposed for another quadrant, where an equestrian center is already located. On the south side of Janss Road, another quadrant includes vast grass playing fields and is the site of the annual Conejo Valley Days festival. Soccer persists here with unprecedented popularity.

According to Loren Pluth, senior park development planner for Thousand Oaks, "A districtwide park means that on the evolutionary scale of parks, from neighborhood parks on up, there's only one district park and Conejo Creek North Park is it. This park has opened fairly recently--it's not an old park by any means--and it has been a tremendous success."

DETAILS

Conejo Creek North Park, 1379 E. Janss Road at California 23, Thousand Oaks; open daily, 7 a.m. to dusk. COST: Free. CALL: 495-6471.

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