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Broesamles honored for protecting Ojai Valley

web Anne Gard John and Kathy Broesamle
Photo by Anne Gard
John and Kathy Broesamle of Ojai, recipients of Los Padres ForestWatch’s Wilderness Legacy Award.

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News reporter
Longtime Ojai residents John and Kathy Broesamle will be honored for their work to preserve and protect the Ojai Valley, at the 12th annual Ojai Wild! benefit.
On June 2, they’ll receive the Wilderness Legacy Award from Los Padres ForestWatch, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization.
The Broesamles have been at the forefront of nearly every conservation battle that Ojai has faced over the last three decades, said Jeff Kuyper, executive director at LPFW. “Ojai is protected the way it is today, in large part, because of the hard work, determination and foresight the Broesamles put into every single campaign they’ve worked on. We’re honored to recognize them for their work,” Kuyper told the Ojai Valley News.
“It’s very humbling to be in the company of other people that have received this award,” said Kathy, a retired speech pathologist. For nearly a decade, she volunteered as Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s event coordinator, and served on the first board of directors for the Ojai Valley Defense Fund, an organization that provides financial support to groups fighting environmental threats to the valley. She also played a role in both SOAR initiatives.
Kathy met John in 1960 in Yosemite, where they both worked summers during college. John, a retired professor, drafted a growth control initiative for the city of Thousand Oaks in 1980. From 1998 to 2000 he was president of OVLC, and both he and Kathy were actively involved in the acquisition of several of its preserves, including the Ojai Meadows Preserve and the Ventura River Preserve. In 2009, he founded OVDF, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this month.
“Anything we’ve managed to do to help protect and preserve the Ojai Valley, we’ve tried to do for future generations, as much as for our own,” John said. “We’re reminded of that every time we look at our grandkids, who love this place as much as we do.”
In 1999, John was named Ojai Citizen of the Year and, in 2001, he became an Ojai Living Treasure. He received the Environmental Defense Center Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and has long been an active volunteer in Ojai’s public schools. “Living in this valley has made better people of us,” John said. “We came here more than 30 years ago, really feeling that this was the last vestige of old Southern California that remained.”
If it weren’t for Ojai, the Broesamles would have left the state. “A childhood dream of mine was always to be able to walk out my door and into the wilderness and take a hike. And somehow it happened, and we’re just so happy,” said Kathy.
Now the longest-running conservation benefit in Ventura County, Ojai Wild! brings in more than 350 conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts and community leaders each year. It’s open to the public and takes place at The Thacher School’s upper field, which offers panoramic views of the valley and surrounding mountains. “That’s what makes this event so unique,” said Jeff Kuyper. “It takes place in a spectacular outdoor setting surrounded by the land we’re working to protect.”
Along with the presentation of the Wilderness Legacy Award, the event from 4 to 7:30 p.m. includes live music by Todd Hannigan and Sleeping Chief, local wines, craft brews, a farm-to-table dinner and dessert, silent and live auctions and a wine cellar raffle.
“This event makes so many people happy,” said John Broesamle. “They just enjoy it. And I think that may stem from the days when ForestWatch was tiny and struggling. Everybody wanted the kid to succeed, so to speak, and it truly has.”
For Ojai, ForestWatch could not be more important, he said. “We do so much in this valley to protect and preserve it, but if anything goes badly haywire in the Los Padres — the wide end of the funnel — it would just concentrate here in the Ojai Valley, the narrow end of the funnel. It’s critical to us and we’re critical to it.”
Tickets for Ojai Wild! are $125 and tables for eight can be reserved for $1,000. Reservations can be made at www.ojaiwild.org or by calling (805) 617-4610 ext. 4.
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