By Logan Hall
Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett has announced that construction on the new sidewalk on South Lomita Avenue in Meiners Oaks has been completed in time for the new school year. The project, costing $329,000 and funded by the State Highway Safety Program, has paved the way for children walking to and from school on Lomita between Meiners Oaks Elementary School and El Roblar Drive.
“We think it’s wonderful,” said the school’s principal, Dawn Damianos. “We don’t have as many buses to pick up the kids as we used to and more and more of them are walking or riding bikes. This makes it a lot safer for them.”
Although the sidewalk was completed in June, the county made the public announcement a week before students have their first day of school (which will be Tuesday).
Schoolchildren aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from the new sidewalk.
Meiners Oaks resident Gedene Felgar frequently uses the new sidewalk on strolls through the neighborhood. “The new sidewalk is great,” said Felgar as she strode toward the school with her dog, Ginger. “I use it all of the time when we go walking.”
County staff has stated that the project is just the beginning of improvements along the entire length of Lomita. The county’s plan is a veritable make-over of the road with the next step involving a total repaving of Lomita along with a widening of the road’s shoulders for improved bike lane safety. Both phases of the project are scheduled to begin later this year. A press release from Bennett’s office says, “The sidewalk project will be followed by the repaving of the entirety of Lomita Avenue from Rice Road to Highway 33.”
Bennett believes that the make-over will benefit the valley as a whole. “The sidewalks together with the bike lanes will make it much safer for kids and families to get to school …” Bennett said. “Next year we will start extending sidewalks up the south side of El Roblar. These projects all help make the Ojai Valley a more sustainable and accessible community.”
The county has tried several times over the years to allocate the money for the project but had fallen short until the safety program shelled out the necessary funds. “We applied for grant funds for this project for several years before we were successful,” said Bennett.
Damianos agrees that the sidewalk project has been a waiting game until now. “This has been in the works a long time,” she said. “The kids used to have to walk on the dirt path and sometimes in the street because there was no sidewalk. Public schools need to have sidewalks in front of them so we’re very grateful for this.”