Heritage Valley is part of the Santa Clara River Valley in Ventura County, California, and includes the communities of Fillmore, Piru and Santa Paula. The valley winds through the hills before emptying into the Pacific Ocean and is Southern California’s last pristine agricultural valley nestled along the banks of the free-flowing Santa Clara River.
The Santa Clara River Valley is bordered by the Topatopa Mountains, Los Padres National Forest, and Sespe Condor Sanctuary to the north and the Santa Susana Mountains to the south. The valley stretches from the boundary of northwest Los Angeles County and the northern Santa Clarita Valley on the east to the Oxnard Plain on the west marked by South Mountain on the south bank of the river. The Santa Clarita Valley is part of the upper watershed of the river.
A footpath through the valley was the only route linking the San Fernando and San Buenaventura missions for 18th-century Spanish priests. Thomas Bard, a political leader in California who assisted in the organization of Ventura County and represented the state in the United States Senate from 1900 to 1905, launched a campaign in the 1870s to build a road through the valley as he wanted to connect the new Hueneme wharf with ore mines in Inyo County.
The valley is an exception to the post-war urban development that has almost entirely eradicated the evidence of citrus cultivation throughout most of Southern California.
Fillmore, whose motto is “The Last Best Small Town,” has a population of 15,610 (2016 census). The city was founded in 1888 by Jerome A. Fillmore, General Superintendent of the Southern Pacific Railroad, when the railroad was being built through the valley.
Fillmore still has a small-town atmosphere which is becoming increasingly rare in suburbanized Ventura County. It has a classic “turn of the century” downtown architecture, a one-screen theater and a historic train depot, the Fillmore and Western Railway, and many unique antique shops and businesses, including a local winery operation. Fillmore also is home to Elkins Ranch Golf Course and located nearby are a fish hatchery and the Sespe Creek and Sespe Wilderness, home to the California Condor Sespe sanctuary.
Fillmore’s economy is still largely driven by agriculture. Most of the agricultural industry in the Fillmore area is related to orange, lemon, avocado orchard farming and packing and, more recently, specimen tree farming. To a lesser extent, row crop farming and small industry and assembly are also present in and near Fillmore.
This region experiences hot and dry summers. Temperatures can easily reach above 100 degrees. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Fillmore has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate.
The city is served by the Fillmore Unified School District. Educational facilities for this district include: two high schools including Fillmore High School, one middle school and four elementary schools.
A fifth elementary school is located in the city of Piru, which is also a part of the school district. The Fillmore Christian Academy is a private K-8 school in town.
Fillmore’s economy is largely driven by agriculture. Most agricultural industry in the Fillmore area is related to orange, lemon, avocado orchard farming and packing and, more recently, specimen tree farming. To a lesser extent, row crop farming and small industry and assembly are also present in and near Fillmore and in other parts of the Santa Clara River Valley. The single largest employer is the Fillmore Unified School District.
Fillmore has a classic “turn of the 20th century” downtown architecture, the one-screen Fillmore Towne Theatre, and many unique shops and businesses, including a local winery. Adjacent to the railroad tracks and a much-photographed city hall is the Railroad Visitor Center operated by the Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society, which has many displays as well as a fully operational 90-foot train turntable and several restored railroad cars.
A short walk down Main Street from the Railroad Visitor Center is the Fillmore Historical Museum, which includes the restored Southern Pacific Railroad Fillmore 1887 standard-design One Story Combination Depot No. 11 built in 1887, a 1956 Southern Pacific railroad caboose, and railroad-related displays. The small post office from the community of Bardsdale and a 1919 farm worker bunkhouse from Rancho Sespe were moved to the site along with the 1906 Craftsman-style Hinckley House, the home of the community’s first dentist and druggist. The bunkhouse contains many displays illustrating the history of Fillmore and the nearby communities of Bardsdale and Piru.
The Fillmore and Western Railway trains take tourists through the orchards. The Elkins Ranch Golf Course is nearby. Also located nearby are a fish hatchery and the Sespe Creek and Sespe Wilderness, home to the California condor Sespe sanctuary.
Fillmore has provided a commercial and business center for the small community of Bardsdale, which is located about three miles south of Fillmore, directly across the Santa Clara River.
Well-preserved downtown Fillmore is a popular filming location for television and movies. The January 4, 2007, episode of CSI entitled Leaving Las Vegas prominently featured old-town Fillmore as the fictional town of “Larkston, Nevada”. Scenes in the television series Jericho and Big Love are also filmed there.
The City of Fillmore is an established municipality within Ventura County, founded in 1888 and incorporated on July 10, 1914. The city is governed by a five-person council with the position of mayor and mayor pro-tem elected by the council every two years. Council members serve four-year terms.
Fillmore has an overall low crime rate.
Major Highways: Fillmore is primarily served by State Highway 126 and State Highway 23.
Fillmore is at the east end of the Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority Highway 126 route that originates at the Pacific View Mall in Ventura, and operates along SR 126 to Saticoy, Santa Paula and Fillmore.
Scheduled service began in 2015 for the Heritage Valley communities with two routes in Santa Paula, one route in Fillmore and one in Piru that runs to Fillmore. They are designed to mesh with the schedule of the VISTA Highway 126 route. 16-seat buses are used on the Valley Express. The dial-a-ride services in both cities, which for now are the only public transit option, will remain in operation after the bus routes start.