Decades of flighty fun over as Steckel Park aviary to be closed

July 20, 2011
Santa Paula News

It has housed thousands of birds over more than 80 years, but the bird aviary at Steckel Park - for decades the scene of flighty fun - is being closed. 

Built in 1926 for birds of all feathers, over the decades the aviary housed exotic birds from around the world as well as the more run of the mill variety including pigeons, turkeys, love birds and quail.

According to Supervisor Kathy Long, Ventura County - which owns the park and aviary off of Highway 150, about five miles north of downtown Santa Paula - will find homes for the birds at the aviary. Long told the Santa Paula Rotary Club at the July 11 meeting that the wild peacocks that stroll the park will remain free agents. 

It would cost about $150,000 to repair the aviary, which Long said has an annual cost of about $10,000 for operations. “The bird population has been declining,” she noted.

In years past a caretaker lived on the park property and, in exchange for rent for a tiny rock house, cared for the birds, which were largely donated to the facility. In the 1980s the aviary became a magnet for complaints to the Ojai based Humane Society that the cages were not being cleaned, water was not always available, and mice were a constant presence drawn by the bags of birdseed.

The aviary over the years included parrots, cockatiels, lovebirds, partridges, ducks, Chinese geese, parakeets, pheasants, chickens, doves and finches. The peacocks escaped decades ago, the beginning of the wild herd.

Long said the good news is that Steckel Park is now home to Kampgrounds Of America Ventura, which is promoting “glamping” at the site with a variety of glamour camping opportunities and activities, among other amenities.

Steckel Park got its start in 1926 when then Santa Paula Mayor M. L. Steckel donated the land east of Highway 150 for the beginnings of the park. Thirteen years later his widow donated the property that brought the site up to 142 acres.

In 1977 the aviary was the scene of a bird-napping: news reports noted that a tom and hen turkey were stolen after thieves cut into their cage. A park ranger reported the theft, telling the local newspaper that judging from the feathers on scene and other evidence, the birds appeared to have put up “a good fight.”

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