The Rocknockers are coming

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GREAT NEWS for my group the Serra Cross Conservancy, which owns the Father Serra Cross and one acre of land surrounding it in Ventura's Grant Park. We've scored a bit of a coup.

In a time when fundraising for all non-profits is rather slow, we've found an incredible opportunity to improve the area from an international society of stonemasons who will hold their annual workshop and symposium in Ventura.

Blessed with the best view in Ventura, our little piece of the park is home to a replica of the cross Father Junipero Serra himself erected in 1782 as a guidepost for travelers looking for the San Buenaventura Mission. Generations of Venturans have maintained this site, which was first privately owned and then donated to the City of Ventura for use as a park. We bought the property in 2003 to save the city from a costly lawsuit over separation-of-church-and-state issues.

Now we're destined to create our own little piece of history with a wonderful project the Stone Foundation, aka the Rocknockers, is leaving behind. From Jan. 8-18, 2010 a Dry Stone Walling Workshop will be held at the site. Led by Jyunji and Suminori Awata, 14th- and 15th-generation stonemasons who specialize in the restoration of medieval Japanese castle walls throughout Japan, the group will build a pair of stone ramparts flanking the stairway descending to the Cross. Joining them will be other stonemasons and students from all over the globe -- Canada, Scotland, France and Spain.

While this portion of Grant Park will be closed to cars during the 10 days the stonemasons are working, the public will be invited to park a bit further away and walk in to observe the proceedings.

Dry stone walling is a technique practiced over thousands of years but which has become somewhat of a dying art, said Tomas Lipps, of Santa Fe, N.M., who is organizing the event. "It is costly because it requires skilled craftsmen," Lipps said. He estimated that the project he and his group propose for the site would cost our group more than $250,000 were we to pay for the stone and labor ourselves.

The 200 tons of sandstone for the project is being donated by Larry Mosler, who owns a quarry in Ojai. "It's a very generous gift," Lipps said.

WHY VENTURA and why Grant Park? Every year the group picks a different locale for their annual gathering. Lipps explained that while working on a public art project in Pasadena in 2003, he lived in Ventura for several months while fabricating the stone elements for the project at Art City Studios with local sculptor Paul Lindhard, who is also involved in organizing the workshop. Lipps was looking for a temperate place to hold a winter workshop and Ventura immediately came to mind.

Lindhard helped pick the Serra Cross site. "You have one of the most magnificent properties in Ventura and any and all work that is put there should be for generations to come," he told our group at a recent meeting.

The walling workshop will precede the main event, International Stonework Symposium 2010, which will be held Jan. 19-23. Another event, this one an Architectural Stone Carving Workshop will take place Jan. 12-18 at Art City Studios. It will be conducted by Colleen Wilson, a master stone carver/sculptor from Canada.

The Stone Foundation will also stage what they call the "Lithic Olympic Games," contests of skill, strength and judgment involving stone-related activities. These will be held at various places around town and the community will be able to watch the stone artisans compete.

Most of the walling workshop students will be young stonemasons, both male and female. Traveling to Ventura and staying here for the duration of the workshop will be financially challenging for them. Several plan to camp near the workshop site, others would benefit from guest housing. Offers of housing from the community will be appreciated as well as donations for food and drink for the workers and incidental materials.

For more information on the group's activities go to

For more on the Serra Cross Conservancy, go to

A FINAL NOTE: I am putting the blog on hiatus after this entry. Recent outside work commitments have made it too difficult for me to monitor and update it on a regular basis. Thanks for reading. It's been fun.



Thanks for covering Ventura and state politics in such detail. Your blogging contributions will be missed!

This is good news.

I watched all the separation-of-church-and-state nonsense going on and kept wishing I could sit on the bench and laugh the suit right out of my courtroom. The cross is not so much about religion as it is about the heritage of the City of Ventura. It seems so foolish to want to forget that Ventura was founded by Jesuit Priests. Facts are facts and history is what it is. Keep up the good work.

You've had the best blog on the Star in my opinion. And I'll miss you.

I too will miss your blog and your infinite patience with the nutcases!

This stonemason workshop is an amazing opportunity for Ventura and a wonderful gift to the Serra Cross Park.
I've really enjoyed your blog and your coverage of local politics. You'll be missed, Marie!

Thank you for putting so much effort into your blog. You raised the level of local dialog. I hope you'll do it again in the near future. And you're right. This event will make a significant statement about the validity of Ventura's claim to be a place worthy of international attention, both for its arts and its rich historical heritage, not to mention its climate and natural beauty.


Marie, thank you so much for writing this column. I shall miss you here, with your heartfelt insights.

Where's the love fest gushing about how Marie should reconsider and keep her blog going so we can all argue about local issues.

Marie: Have fun in doing what ever it is you're doing. Those of us who love to argue will have to do so on the main Star comments site.

I'll miss your contributions too, Marie. Although we didn't agree on very much, it made for some hearty dialogue and some fun times.

All the best in your future endeavors.

JD: I believe I have a replacement coming in. Not sure yet. Stay tuned.

Thanks everyone. I tried to do all I do by not sleeping. That wasn't working well.

Joe Howry found out she has talent and she was fired immediately.


In spite of the comments about not agreeing, it's not necessary to always agree to notice that you had the best blog on the Star.

Student, still the acid tongue I see. I'm still waiting for the proof you said you found back on the global warming thread. I really will read it if you'll post a link to it.

Marie, you know I am gender neutral when it comes to candidates, opinions, arguments and convictions. But when you blogged I was the choir you preached to.


I hope the "hold" is just that and that you return, at least now and then.

Without getting into "best" or that, there is little question that your Blog here has been an extremely calm rational and welcome voice that talks about affairs here in our town and area.

Take care of yourself and business! Thanks so very much for all that you accomplished!


Hi, Marie: I just logged in after some time away from the blog, only to find out you're putting it on hiatus. Let me add my best wishes to those of many others. I've enjoyed your work here but can certainly see that it takes a lot of time. And sleep is still essential. Good luck.

Hi John and Tom (two of my favorite bloggers!)

I am putting it on hiatus to get some very important work done, but haven't shut the door on reviving it when my work is over.

P.S. As you can see from the hour I'm posting here, I don't follow my own advice about sleep. :-)

That's a great Sarah Palin impression Marie you just forgot to say how much you hate the media.

If I remember correctly, Ventura was founded by Jesuits. It seems some people forgot that...

Seriously happy i found this website, will make sure to take a note of it so i can come to routinely.

I have been checking for some time for one great articles or blog posts with respect to this unique niche . Searching in Search engines I ultimately stumbled upon this fabulous site. After reading this So i'm happy to state that I've got a nice impression I found exactly what I was looking for. For certain i will make certain to remember this web site and visit on a constant basis.

Straight to the point and written well, tyvm for the post

I've seen many blogs and I can certainly state that this is my favorite.

Where is link?

z_Making Waves
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This space is devoted to thoughtful and lively discussion about the events, people and politics which shape Ventura and our state. If you would like to suggest blog topics, email me.

About the author

Marie Lakin, a long-time resident of Ventura, is a community activist and writer/editor.
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