Donate to "The Paramount Project" to Rebuild Paramount Ranch's Western Town

The iconic Western Town at Paramount Ranch was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire of November 2018. The only surviving structures were the church and the train station.

The iconic Western Town at Paramount Ranch was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire of November 2018. The only surviving structures were the church and the train station.

The Santa Monica Mountains Fund, in cooperation with the National Park Service, has launched “The Paramount Project,” a campaign to rebuild Paramount Ranch’s Western Town, recently destroyed by the Woolsey Fire.

The site, long popular with location scouts looking to replicate a rustic town with a Western motif, was also used for many of the special events that take place at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, including weddings, star parties, music festivals, classic movie nights and a variety of other activities. A National Park Service employee, along with her family, lived in Western Town and was one of three employees who lost park housing in the Woolsey fire.   

The new fundraising initiative is expected to restore the only National Park Service site that interprets American film history. It was purchased by the National Park Service in 1980 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.


The focus of the campaign is to tap into the creativity, expertise, and resources of both the entertainment community and the general public to create a temporary set and then, ultimately, a number of permanent structures that will retain the rustic features of the past, but with more fire-resistant materials.

The National Park Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund have already been contacted by members of the entertainment industry who would like to be involved in the project.

In 1927, Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres of the old Rancho Las Virgenes for use as a "movie ranch." Thus began an era of film production that had continued until last week with more than 300 films, television shows and commercials being shot here. The current ranch is comprised of 765 acres.

Famous Hollywood actors, from Bob Hope and Marlene Dietrich to Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper, have strolled around the dusty streets that could be magically transformed into a real town that included a general store, a sheriff’s jail, a saloon, drugstore and a variety of other settings. After it was purchased by Paramount Pictures, a veritable who's who of Hollywood, such as director Cecil B. DeMille and actors Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert, practiced their craft here for the next 25 years.

But it was the diverse landscape that was the real star of the show. It offered filmmakers the freedom to create distant locales such as colonial Massachusetts in The Maid of Salem (1937), ancient China in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938), a South Seas island in Ebb Tide (1937), and numerous western locations including San Francisco in Wells Fargo (1937). The art of illusion was mastered in this landscape.

In the 1950s, Western Town was created for television shows, such as The Cisco Kid. More recent television productions at Paramount include The Mentalist, Weeds, episodes of the X-Files and Hulu’s Quickdraw.

More recently, Western Town gained attention as Main Street in HBO’s hit series “Westworld.” For five years in the 1990s, it stood in as Colorado Springs, Colorado, providing the backdrop for many of actress Jane Seymour’s frontier adventures on the popular TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.  Also, Sandra Bullock had a leading role in The Lake House here.

Less known is the history of the Paramount Racetrack. The track operated from 1956 to 1957 and was known as one of the most challenging in the nation. The movie, The Devil’s Hairpin, was filmed on the course, which closed down after three fatalities within 18 months from its opening. Most of the track still winds through the grass and oak woodlands of the park.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park System, it comprises a seamless network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit

The Santa Monica Mountains Fund works to protect and encourage appreciation and understanding of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Fund achieves this by supporting National Park Service efforts in education, science, research, improved facilities, citizen engagement, stewardship and philanthropy. For more information, visit

The General Store seen prior to the Woolsey Fire.

The General Store seen prior to the Woolsey Fire.

Make a Wish Tri-Counties 2014 Wishes in Flight Campaign Launches in Ventura County

GREAT update! Wish Kid Ambassador Hazel and family recently received word that she is now cancer free! Congratulations! More at Hazel continues to be the Wish Kid Ambassador as Make a Wish Tri-Counties seeks to achieve its goal of one million donated airline miles in 2014. They are currently (as of 5/5/14) at 39% of this goal. 28 of 73 current wishes in process involve air travel. Donate at

Originally posted in February 2014:

3-year-old Hazel, with stage 3 Neuroblastoma, and wishes to go to Disney World, is the official Wish Kid Ambassador for the Make a Wish Tri-Counties 2014 Wishes in Flight campaign, with a goal of one million donated miles.

When the volunteer Wish Granters came to Hazel’s house in Simi Valley to learn about her wish, Hazel’s parents asked how they could help make wishes come true for other kids, particularly, how they could help collect frequent flyer miles. Chapter CEO Shanna Wason Taylor reached out to Hazel’s mom, Lauren, and the 2014 Wishes in Flight Campaign was born.

Many wishes like Hazel’s come true with help from frequent fliers. Their donations of air miles are essential to getting wish kids to their destinations. The Wishes in FlightSM miles donation program is easy – and the miles never expire once donated.

63 percent of the wishes granted locally by Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, which serves Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, include air travel for families to reach their wish destinations.

Locally, 8 million donated airline miles are needed to provide wish travel for wish kids and their families each year, whether it’s to meet a celebrity, go to their favorite theme park or reconnect with a close friend who moved away.

Less than 2 million are donated each year, making airline tickets the most avoidable but significant expense for the local chapter. Currently the local Make-A-Wish chapter has depleted their donated airline miles bank, and is paying rack rate for all tickets purchased.

Donating unused airline miles is an easy way for supporters to help grant wishes like Hazel’s and give them an experience that improves the quality of life for them and their families.

To donate Delta, US Airways, Continental, United or JetBlue frequent flyer miles to Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, go to or call 805-676-9474 x4. It is extremely easy to do. Just have your frequent flyer account number on hand.

Learn more about Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties at

ABOUT HAZEL: Hazel was diagnosed in April 2013 with High Risk, Stage 3 Neuroblastoma. She was referred to Make-A-Wish in August. To learn more about Hazel visit

Purchase a Snoopy License Plate to Support California Museums

The California Association of Museums (CAM) recently announced a new program called the Snoopy Plate initiative! CAM has partnered with the California DMV to issue a special license plate featuring Snoopy, the world's favorite beagle. Snoopy license plates are now on sale at

Proceeds from the official Snoopy license plate will support California’s museums through a new competitive grant program.

Each plate will feature a reproduction of an original Snoopy drawing by PEANUTS creator Charles M. Schulz. Snoopy will be doing his happy dance, probably in anticipation of a visit to a local museum in and around Ventura County (and other parts of California).

Sequential Snoopy license plates are just $50. Personalized plates are $98. Once 7,500 applications have been received, the DMV will put the plates into production and, voilà, a Snoopy license plate and museum grant program are ours!

So, don’t hesitate! Go to today to sign up for your Snoopy license plate, or to get more information. And, ask your friends and family to help us achieve this goal.

Learn more about the California Cultural and Historical Endowment Program Snoopy Plate initiative at

Thousand Oaks Charity "The Greater Contribution" Raises Funds to Fight Poverty Around the World

The Greater Contribution (TGC) is a Thousand Oaks based non-profit organization founded in 2006 by four women seeking to make a "greater contribution" to the world. It is an all-volunteer group that works to raise funds to fight poverty and raise awareness of the issues relating to poor people worldwide.

TGC provides "micro loans" ($50 to $300) to the world's poorest women and their families to enable them to create or expand a small business.  In many of the poorest countries of the world, these businesses are the only way families can work their way out of poverty.  Loans are repaid every 90-120 days and the money is loaned out over and over again, thus multiplying the number of people who can begin the journey out of poverty.

I spoke with Karon Wright, President, Executive Director and Co-Founder of TGC:

Micro loan borrower displays her new chicken coop!Who does TGC help? Those in the most impoverished nations of the world -- those struggling to live on less than the equivalent of $2/day. Our mission is to be a leader in the worldwide movement to eliminate extreme poverty by 2015.

How do you channel money to those in need and how does the money get repaid?  The money is transmitted to a monitored bank account in East Africa.  The loans are repaid every six months to the same account through our program director.

How else does TGC help these people?  TGC and our local partner on the ground in Uganda, Women’s Microfinance Initiative, will send a group of student interns there this month,  taking laptop computers and installing an internet café.   We are making grant applications to obtain funding for a nurse to be available in this remote village several days a week to provide badly needed health care. TGC will soon be selling aprons, handbags and jewelry made by the women of Buyobo. The women borrowers have been able to save money for a foundation for a new school.  The economy of the entire region has improved.

Another borrower with her pots.How many people do you help and where?  We focus on the countries in greatest need – those in East Africa.  Since inception, TGC has funded over 7,500 micro loans, benefiting over 39,000 people!

Why do you choose women entrepreneurs? We grant loans to women entrepreneurs because women are the hardest hit by poverty -- 70% of those living in dire poverty are women and because once a woman gets a micro loan and establishes a small business, her husband and children typically get involved.  So, we are really loaning to the whole family.

How can people help?  People can visit to donate and to find other ways that they can help.

The Greater Contribution is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Great Labor Day Weekend Culminates in a Rainbow Above the Conejo Valley

The weather was seasonably warm this Labor Day weekend and under partly cloudy skies most of the day. To me the weather seemed picture perfect, and I believe this rainbow photo taken from the North Ranch section of Westlake Village sums up what a great weekend it was.

Photo courtesy of Ed Garnett. Speaking of Ed, he is a Board Member of the Conejo Free Clinic, which provides medical and legal services to local residents in need. I encourage you to take a look at this worthy local non-profit that helps our local community. Their biggest fundraiser of the year, the CFC 24th Annual Fall Golf Classic, is coming up on October 8th.

Here were some of those clouds a little earlier tonight above Conejo Mountain, seen from the 101 Freeway in Camarillo.