Prior to the arrival of Spanish missionaries, the Ojai Valley was home to the Chumash Indians. The Chumash believed the east-west lying valley had many mystical powers. "Ojai" is an old Indian name generally believed to mean "the nest," though others interpret it as coming from the Chumash word "A'hwai," meaning "moon." Spanish settlers and missionaries arrived in the late 1700s. In 1874, the area's first settlement was established. The community was known as Nordhoff in honor of an East Coast journalist who made known the remedial qualities of Ojai's idyllic climate. Ojai was finally incorporated as a city on August 5, 1921.
Ecologically aware citizens are drawn to Ojai, partly because of its strong emphasis on preserving the unique character of the Ojai Valley. Residential and commercial development is strictly limited and alternative transportation is encouraged. The community promotes occupations that are compatible with both nature and the small-town atmosphere particular to Ojai. As a result, the arts, retirement living, agriculture and tourism all flourish within the community. Despite all this, Ojai is also a very modern city and is home to companies engaged in website design, software development and other businesses associated with the information age.
Recreation is aided by a seven-member Parks and Recreation Commission. Established in 1961, the commission provides recommendations to the City Council and City Manager on matters pertaining to parklands, facilities and recreation programs. Meanwhile, the Ojai Recreation Department fulfills its mission by providing many activities to Ojai Valley residents. Programs and activities include youth day camps, a gymnastics program, lifeguard training classes, summer aquatics programs, year-round sports tournaments, horse shows and more. Sports programs exist for boxing, soccer, youth and adult volleyball, flag football, basketball, softball and tennis. The department also maintains a teen fitness center and a skateboard park.
An integral part of the image and the feel of the Ojai area are its public parks and recreational facilities. The most famous of these is Libby Park, which hosts a number of annual events that bring the community together. There are enough of these events to keep residents very busy year-round. Some of the most popular annual events are Ojai Day, St. Thomas Aquinas Festival, Ojai Music Festival, Ojai Wine Festival, Ojai's Annual Art Tour and the Lake Casitas Intertribal Pow Wow.
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