If You Love the Open Space, Thank a Volunteer

The first time I hiked on Lynx trail in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park was just last week. It is a steep, rocky, view-rich path between West Ridge trail and Wood Creek, and clearly, it has been cared for. There were drainage efforts and tread improvements to keep hikers on the trail and water off the trail. 

I’ve lived in Laguna Beach for the past thirteen years and was born and raised in Southern California. You’d think I might have known about Lynx, this beautiful treasure of a trail, years ago, but I did not.

As the newly hired Outreach Manager for Laguna Canyon Foundation, I hike with elementary school children weekly in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, on well-kept, safe, trash free [almost] trails: Stagecoach South, Laurel Canyon, Canyon, Sunflower, Lake, and Little Sycamore, to name a few.

For those of us who live in proximity to these two parks – part of the South Coast Wilderness stretching from Newport Beach to Aliso Viejo – we might not yet know the intimate beauty of the parks: the metamorphic rock formations; the shade of the coast live oak and scent of sage; the sighting of a deer, roadrunner or bobcat; but we do know of its great beauty simply by driving down the 133 and 73, along Aliso Viejo’s Wood Canyon Drive or Laguna Niguel’s Pacific Park Drive.

These protected lands improve our lives as well as our home values. Says Ed McMahon, a Washington D.C.-based expert on open space: “Open space really contributes to the image of a community. The image of a community is fundamentally important to its economic well-being.”

One may wonder, then, how is it that this land is preserved and maintained as well as it is when an estimated 500,000 people visit each year to hike, bike, paint and photograph?

“It is a never-ending project, as you can well imagine,” says Hallie Jones, Executive Director of Laguna Canyon Foundation. “Laguna Canyon Foundation’s mission is to protect and preserve our open space, and with 70 miles of trails and 22,000 acres of wilderness, we have our work cut out for us. It is our volunteers who inspire us with their commitment and hard work.”

Indeed, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s certified, long-term volunteers served more 7,600 hours in 2016. Their work included:

  • Greeting park visitors at the trailheads to answer questions, explain park protocols and offer fun facts about the open space
  • Working closely with OC Parks’ small maintenance staff to maintain authorized trails and reduce social (unauthorized) trails to #KeepItWild
  • Pulling invasive plants, improving trails, and planting native plants and seeds during regular trail maintenance and restoration events
  • Working closely with OC Park Rangers to patrol the park and assist guests needing directions, water or bit of trail advice
  • Leading a variety of bike rides, nursery and plant care events, and hikes – yoga, geology, fitness, educational, child-friendly – to help enhance the visitors’ enjoyment and understanding of the open space

In addition, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s short-term volunteers, those who come, from time to time, to our trail events to pick up trash, plant, weed, water and shore up trails, logged more than 2,000 hours.

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry engineer, said to the International Union for Conservation of Nature:

“In the end, we will conserve what we love;
 we will love only what we understand;
and we will understand only what we are taught.”

Laguna Canyon Foundation’s volunteers spread the message of preservation and conservation with kindness, knowledge and a bit of fun. They love the land and it shows. We are forever grateful for the volunteers’ support.

So, whether you ever step foot in the open space to explore trails new to you or prefer to enjoy the beauty from a distance, thank a volunteer for helping #ProtectWhatYouLove.

Happy Holidays.

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