All Roads Lead to CI

Road Entry - photo by Michael Urbanek

By Lori Putnam

Lewis Carroll once famously wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Such has not been the case with CI. In fact since its founding 10 years ago, the goal of building a 21st century university has been the CI community’s guiding force. Now the opening of a new campus entrance road marks another important milestone in the University’s growth and success.

“Isn’t it interesting that the new campus entry is open at time when we are beginning our second decade?” observed President Richard Rush of the new three-quarter-mile road that connects Lewis Road to the campus. “The entry gives a symbolic welcome to a new generation of CI students. Here is the road to opportunity, to your future, and to your success.” 

The four-lane road, which now will be known as University Drive, is located approximately a mile and a half south of the original entrance, and will serve as the main artery for the CI campus. It has been designed to accommodate additional traffic – up to an estimated 15,000 full-time students – that the former two-lane University Drive could not. The original entrance will revert to its former name, Camarillo Street, and primarily will serve residents and visitors of University Glen while also providing a more leisurely, secondary access to campus.

The new University Drive integrates naturally with its surroundings, featuring an expansive median landscaped in a variety of native, self-sustaining plants and trees such as oaks, sycamores, and toyon. A bike path follows along the main road and a new bridge crosses Long Grade Creek to connect to the main campus. A second pedestrian bridge at Ventura Street leads visitors to a future parking area and recreational playing fields. Environmentally sensitive features include high-efficiency, dark sky lighting fixtures that prevent light pollution, and rubberized asphalt created from recycled tires. Bio swales have been added as well to help clean and filter storm water runoff and avoid contaminating watershed areas.

Ribbon Cutting

Charting a Path

While construction on the new campus entrance began nearly 18 months ago, the project originated with the passage of Proposition 1D (the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act) in 2006, which provided funding for planning efforts. Within a year, Ventura County already had moved Lewis Road to the west of Calleguas Creek and constructed a bridge to cross the creek in preparation for the new entrance. The county paid for the bridge as part of a larger upgrade to Lewis Road, and the University acquired the land where the bridge and the new entrance cross.

In addition to collaboration with county and state government, the entry road project also fostered a variety of partnerships with CI faculty, students, and environmental and regulatory agencies.

Protecting the Wetlands

The location of the new road created the need for an Environmental Impact Report and subsequent planning for restoring native wetlands. Under the direction of such CI faculty members as Donald Rodriguez, Associate Professor and Chair of the Environmental Science & Resource Management program, students were able to use the campus road project as a chance to learn more about sustainability. 

“We thought this was a great opportunity to integrate learning into the project,” said Rodriguez. “We treated the University as a learning laboratory and worked closely with Operations, Planning & Construction, who actually hired three students part-time to help monitor the project.”

Rodriguez and his peers led classes of up to 50 students at a time in massive planting of vegetation such as Arroyo willow (S. lasiolepis) and mulefat (B. salicifolia) to support the wetland habitat. The area is home to a number of migratory birds, such as the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo, as well as fish and reptiles. “I tell students they can be a part of a lasting legacy to improve the ecological integrity and beauty of the entry way,” added Rodriguez. “I would envision some day – when it’s all grown – that this may be a stop on the campus tour where a guide talks about the ecological footprint of campus.” In addition to planting vegetation, additional work was done on the levy system to help control flooding and protect the wetlands.

Celebrating Milestones

On Friday, May 11, members of the larger community joined CI administrators, faculty, students, and staff for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the new entrance. 

In his welcoming remarks, Academic Senate Chair Jim Meriwether observed, “We mark today the idea that a person – a student, a faculty member, a friend from the community – traveling down this road will see, feel, and implicitly understand that they have arrived at a special place, a dedicated space for building and cultivating and sharing the remarkable endeavors of this young university.”

Dulce Lopez, CI student body president, also spoke of the symbolic importance of the new road and recited from Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood,” said Lopez. “and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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