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Freer Way

Adjacent to traffic whizzing by on the 101, Camarillo Grove County Park offers quiet, leafy respite.

November 09, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Situated at the foot of the Conejo Grade and virtually unnoticed by the motorists zooming by on the Ventura Freeway, Camarillo Grove County Park is a welcome break from all that roaring mobility.

The 24-acre park, which was donated to the county in 1941 by Adolpho Camarillo, lies at the end of Camarillo Springs Road, a two-laner that stretches along the foot of the grade adjacent to a large lemon orchard. At the beginning of the road are a number of healthy poinsettia shrubs, bulking up for their winter blooming spree. On a quiet weekday, numerous quail are visible around the brushy chaparral areas on the private property surrounding the park.

Like most county parks, business is booming on the weekends, but the park is virtually deserted on weekdays. It's open from dawn until dusk, which now is 5 p.m. Thus, no camping is allowed.

As with most fun outings to public places, one is faced with the awful majesty of The Rules. Here, they're not really intrusive, but just basic common sense. First of all, don't bring Fido, as the "No Dogs" sign is larger than Scooby-Doo and certainly isn't open to interpretation.

There are other posted warnings concerning the indigenous natives, mostly rattlesnakes and ticks--unwelcome picnic guests if ever there were any. Also, since the park is surrounded by private property, trespassing, as the numerous signs would indicate, is not encouraged. Nothing says "No trespassing" quite like barbed wire. Also, at the park entrance, special mention is made of a nearby rocky mountaintop, an apparent favorite with climbers. To avoid one of those unpleasant conversations with law enforcement personnel, stay away.

So the "don'ts" are clear, while all other activity, especially eating, is encouraged at the park. There are a number of designated picnic areas of varying sizes with rental prices clearly marked. Area 1, for example, is available for $225 and features a large cooking area, preparation tables, water and six long rows of picnic tables under a roof. There are also numerous smaller family-sized barbecue areas.

The picnic-friendly Camarillo Grove County Park is aptly named. The site is covered with trees, including numerous mature coast live oaks. There are also sycamores, California peppers and a few pines and maples, plus assorted shrubs, including pyracanthas and agaves. And for a basic park--trees, dirt and grass--this one is Felix Unger-tidy with scarcely a leaf or a blade of grass out of place. The bathrooms are clean, the numerous water faucets and drinking fountains all are operational, and there's ample, convenient parking.

While cooking things outdoors seems to be the master plan here, there are also plenty of grassy areas suitable for Frisbee or just sitting around contemplating nature. For the more energetic, there are a couple of horseshoe pits and a well-shaded basketball court, perfect to work on that half-court game. There's also a playground area for the kids featuring slides, bars and swings; plus, there's a mountainside to explore.

In short, a visit to Camarillo Grove County Park is the antithesis of all that frenzied activity on the nearby freeway.

DETAILS

Camarillo Grove County Park, 6968 Camarillo Springs Road, open daily until dusk (now 5 p.m.). Cost: $1 weekdays or $3 Saturday, Sunday or holidays. Call: 654-3951.

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Bill Locey can be reached by e-mail at blocey@pacbell.net.

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