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On Thursday, October 18th, Laguna Canyon Foundation hosted a trails forum at Laguna Beach Beer Company. Since our trails program kicked off in 2015, we’ve held several of these forums at different venues throughout Laguna Beach, with the mission of bringing people who love our open space together to learn about Laguna Canyon Foundation and how to get involved with our trails. Targeted to mountain bikers specifically, this gathering focused on the trail work we have planned for the 2018-2019 trails season, and encouraged people to sign up to volunteer at one of our trail days.

We opened the forum by talking about the history of our open space and how Laguna Canyon Foundation was formed. Those of you who have attended an LCF event have probably heard the story—how Laguna Canyon was owned by the Irvine Company and scheduled to be developed, and how LCF was formed specifically to purchase and preserve that open space. Since that day in 1990, Laguna Canyon Foundation has expanded beyond land acquisition into land stewardship, and our trail program is a critical part of that. The second part of our forum covered our plans for the specific trails we’re focusing on this year, including Laguna Ridge, Camarillo, Old Emerald, Car Wreck, Rock-It and 5 Oaks.

If you’ve been out in the parks recently, you’ve probably noticed the increase in hikers and mountain bikers out on the trails. This increase in use inevitably leads to an increase in user conflicts. Add in steep, challenging terrain and singletrack trails, and you’ll see why we’ve gotten more anecdotal complaints about conflict on the trails. The Q and A portion of the forum focused heavily on these conflicts. How can we open more trails for mountain biking? How can we get more people out volunteering on the trails? How can we tackle the thorny issues of user conflicts? While we don’t have the magic potion that will answer these questions, we had a robust and, at times, challenging conversation about topics that we are all passionate about. We summed up the conversation in just a few words: be polite when you’re on the trail. Give back to the open space you love so much. Work with us to try to increase sustainability in our trail system. Be a part of the solution.

CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) is proposing changes to the 133 (aka Laguna Canyon Road), running through our canyon. In the recently released environmental reports, the proposed project includes:

  • Road widening at El Toro Rd.
    • Extending the second northbound (outbound) lane from El Toro Road by an additional 1200 feet.
    • Extending the second southbound (inbound) lane on 133 by an additional 900 feet.
    • Adding an eight-foot shoulder and bike lane on both sides.
  • Installing an articulated concrete block channel in the riparian (riverine) area on the southbound (inbound) side before reaching El Toro Rd.
  • Undergrounding utility lines between El Toro road and the 73, on the northbound side of the road.

 

While Laguna Canyon Foundation supports making our roads safer for drivers and bicyclists, we do not believe that the proposed project actually accomplishes this. We are very concerned about the environmental impacts of the project. Working alongside our partners in the environmental community, we have developed the following comments on the CalTrans proposal.

  • The second northbound (outbound) lane from El Toro Rd. could reasonably be extended 1200 feet without significant environmental impact. The addition of an eight-foot-wide bike lane and shoulder alongside that northbound (outbound) lane from El Toro Rd can be accommodated with minimal environmental impact with careful design. However, the current plan calls for undergrounding utilities outside this additional eight-foot shoulder and travel lane. The additional land needed for undergrounding (which requires a hard surface), dramatically expands this proposal’s environmental impact. It will require a significant additional take of open space. We support this portion of the project only if the utilities are undergrounded within the proposed eight-foot shoulder.
  • The channelization of the riparian area on the inbound side will have serious visual impacts and riparian habitat impacts. While we understand the desire to make this channel easier to maintain and thus reduce flooding, offsite mitigation or the purchase of mitigation credits is not acceptable in this area. This fragile riparian habitat must be mitigated both visually and habitat wise, at least in part, on-site.
  • The 900-foot extension of the southbound (inbound) lane on the 133 past El Toro Rd. is the area of most concern. The road widening would dip into parkland where Stagecoach South Trail runs along the 133. The existing hillside would be engineered into a 1 ½:1 slope, extending 40 feet into the park. In addition, their proposed lane extension would move the merge location down past the Willow park entrance parking lot. We do not believe this proposal could be completed without dramatic impacts on the park and the parking lot. Specifically:
    • Existing rock structures and native habitat would be destroyed.
    • Up to 14 mature oak trees would be removed, to be mitigated within OC Parks but not on site.
    • The slope steepness would require erosion control and stabilization measures that would make effective restoration of the slope difficult. Think about the southbound side of Laguna Canyon Road across from the Sawdust festival.
    • Traffic in and out of the Willow Parking Lot would now require crossing two lanes of incoming traffic, making an already difficult turn even more treacherous.
    • CalTrans has not studied the traffic patterns of this parking lot. This project is based on incomplete data that does not take into consideration the thousands of cars that use this parking lot each year.
  • All aspects of this project include CalTrans style guard rails, turning Laguna Canyon Road past El Toro into the same freeway style roads we see all over Orange County.

 

At a total cost of approximately $39MM, with an estimated 10 power poles removed and their lines undergrounded, this project’s environmental, visual and fiscal impacts are severe and irresponsible.

Laguna Canyon Foundation cannot support a proposal that drastically impacts park land, has substantial monetary costs, and increases the danger and difficulty of exiting and entering Willow parking lot, with no clear benefit to traffic or safety.

Public comments on the environmental documents (available at http://www.caltrans.ca.gov/d12/DEA/133/0P94U/index.html) are due on July 10, 2018. In the interim, CalTrans will hold a public meeting here in Laguna Beach:

June 27th
5-7 pm

Laguna Beach High School Library

Please attend this public meeting and let CalTrans know that this project will have unacceptable impacts with no clear benefit to our community.

Questions? Please reach out to us on our blog or on Facebook – we’re happy to discuss our position on this project and what the proposed road changes would do to our open space!

In late 2017, the Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a proposed project in Aliso Creek. Based on the original Super Project concept, which was presented in the 1990s, this repair of Aliso Creek is far from the ecosystem restoration project it’s being advertised as.

Located within Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, the proposed project spans approximately five miles of Aliso Creek, stretching from the Ranch at Laguna Beach all the way to Pacific Park Drive in Aliso Viejo. This is the most natural and habitat-rich section of Aliso Creek, home to numerous sensitive, threatened and endangered species, like the southwestern pond turtle and least Bell’s vireo.

The Army Corps plan cites creek instability, utility line protection, floodplain hydrology and degraded riparian (river-adjacent) habitat as the rationale for its proposal. Unfortunately, their heavy-handed and outdated approach proposes to use heavy machinery to excavate, grade and recontour five miles of creek bed and creek banks. This would be followed by installation of engineered structures (grouted and ungrouted rock riffles and bank armoring) to control creek flows and raise the creek bed.

This project would:

  • Grade five miles of sensitive riparian habitat
  • Excavate 567,000 cubic yards of dirt from the creek (that’s 28,000 tractor trailers!)
  • Install 47 engineered rock rip-rap structures between 9inches and 6 feet in height
  • Armor several sections of bank with rock and steel piling
  • Dump 300,000 cubic yards of dirt inside Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
  • Widen the creek profile and floodplain

We believe this project, as proposed, will have negative and entirely avoidable environmental impacts, and should be scaled back. Natural riparian habitat provides resources to support the highest level of wildlife biodiversity in Southern California, and should be kept intact. Natural waterways are dynamic and should be given the space to move and create side channels. Armoring the banks of soft-bottomed creeks locks in the creek’s pathway, while replacing dirt with cement and steel prevents plants from being able to grow along the creek channel – all at a great monetary cost. There is no need for a $100MM project that will destroy large amounts of scarce riparian habitat when less impactful and more affordable alternatives are available!

The Army Corps needs to look at current science, including updated biological studies, and modify this proposal. Aliso Creek has changed dramatically in the last two years, as Laguna Canyon Foundation has headed up the $6MM effort to remove invasive Arundo donax from the creekbanks. As this restoration project nears completion, the biology and hydrology of the creek have greatly improved. The Army Corps studies need to reflect the new conditions on the ground.

So what comes next? Laguna Canyon Foundation is working with the City of Laguna Beach to build a coalition of environmental organizations and municipalities that support a more measured approach to Aliso Creek. We’re working on developing a Locally Preferred Plan for the Army Corps to review, one that accomplishes the goals of infrastructure protection and creek bank instability, but does so in a more targeted, less impactful way.

The Army Corps’ next step is to have their EIR certified by the Orange County Board of Supervisors so that they can move forward. We’re hard at work on that Locally Preferred Plan, but we need your help. Please reach out to your Supervisor, and ask him or her not to certify the EIR. Instead, the Board of Supervisors needs to support a Locally Preferred Plan that costs less, protects our wilderness, and achieves the same goals.  Please take a moment to call, email or write your Supervisor today! Click here for contact information.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And a video can be worth even more. In this age of digital media, we at Laguna Canyon Foundation knew we needed to step up to share our wonderful wilderness and our critical mission with people beyond our loyal supporters and those right in our own neighborhood. So when we caught sight of John Barrett’s film on Laguna Beach, we got the brilliant idea to capture the things that make our open space so special on film.

Now, more than ever, we need to be working together to support the 22,000-acre greenbelt that surrounds Laguna Beach. Through trail work, habitat restoration, environmentally responsible fuel modification work, and, above all, inspiration and education, we continue to protect the land we all love.

How do we narrow down all of the beauty that surrounds us into just three minutes? How can we capture what Laguna Canyon Foundation does, and even more so, why we do it, in such a short time? We let the wilderness, flora, fauna and the work of our supporters speak for themselves. Take a look.

More importantly, take a hike to see, firsthand, the beauty in our own backyard.

We are grateful to those who contributed to this video:

John Barrett, filmmaker
John Barrett Media

Aric Barrera, for narration

Charles Michael Murphy, for the historic footage

Lance Milbrand, for select wildlife footage

Robert Martinez, for the mountain lion and bobcat footage
Parliament of Owls

Monika Yen and her happy band of soccer players

Our wonderful volunteers who step in every day to make our work possible!

Join us!

After an intense hiring search and interview process, Laguna Canyon Foundation is proud to welcome our new Restoration Coordinator, Josie Bennett! Josie will be working closely with Restoration Program Director Alan Kaufmann, doing everything from jumping in on hands-on restoration work at the DeWitt property and leading volunteer restoration days to assisting with grant applications and attending important city planning meetings.

Josie is a field biologist with experience implementing habitat restoration and monitoring at various sites in Orange County. She has expertise in our local natural history including plants, plant communities, insects, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Prior to joining Laguna Canyon Foundation, she worked for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and the Natural Resource Management department of California State Parks in Orange County. Josie received a BS in Biological Sciences with an emphasis on Ecology and Environment from California State University, Long Beach. She is certified through the National Association for Interpretation as a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG).

Already Josie has made a great impact, helping us with a corporate stewardship day, digging in on restoration planning and truly pitching in where we need her. Her wealth of biological expertise and invaluable experience in restoring local habitats are matched only by her enthusiasm and eagerness to contribute to LCF’s work. Join us in welcoming Josie to the LCF team!

We’re looking for a new Restoration Coordinator! Read on to learn more and how to apply.


RESTORATION COORDINATOR

Core Responsibilities:

  • Conduct field work in support of new and ongoing habitat restoration projects, including:
    • Assist with obtaining, propagating and installing plant propagules
    • Identify and manage non-native plant populations through a combination of herbicide application, hand-pulling, mowing, and mulching
    • Install, monitor and maintain irrigation systems
    • Make monthly and quarterly site observations and submit reports
    • Assist with annual vegetation monitoring and photo documentation
  • Project management and contractor communication

Additional Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate restoration and nursery-related volunteer efforts
    • Develop and implement a weed management team to address emergent weed issues in the South Coast Wilderness
    • Coordinate with OC Parks to plan and implement regular volunteer restoration events
    • Coordinate with the Volunteer Nursery Manager to plan and implement the LCF Nursery program, including two volunteer events per month
  • Assist with preparation of project reporting and grant applications
    • Write copy for portions of project reports, grant applications and other documents
    • Prepare maps and other exhibits using GoogleEarth Pro and other mapping, image management and publishing software
  • Other duties as assigned

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in ecology or related field
  • 1 year minimum experience in field biology, habitat restoration or related field
  • Familiarity with or ability to quickly learn to identify native and non-native plants
  • Familiarity and experience with use of handheld GPS units and mapping software
  • Has or can obtain Certified Pesticide Applicator license
  • Basic computer literacy and the ability to quickly learn new computer programs
  • Excellent interpersonal and verbal and written communications skills
  • Passionate about Laguna Canyon Foundation’s mission
  • Highly-motivated and a proven self-starter with the ability to work independently
  • Ability and willingness to work regular weekend hours and evening hours as necessary
  • Access to a reliable vehicle, valid driver’s license and required insurance coverage, and willingness to use vehicle for work purposes (mileage reimbursement available)
  • Candidate must be able to perform the Essential Functions of this position with or without reasonable accommodations (see below)

The ideal candidate may also have:

  • Master’s degree in the Biological Sciences
  • 3 or more years experience in field biology, habitat restoration or related field
  • Extensive experience working outdoors in all conditions
  • Experience leading field-based volunteer events
  • Experience in plant propagation
  • Familiarity with local environmental agencies and regulations

Salary and Benefits:

  • $35,000-$40,000 annually
  • Health and dental insurance, and retirement benefits

Additional Information:

  • Start date is September 1-September 15, 2016
  • Please send resume and cover letter to alan@lagunacanyon.org, or hard copies to: Alan Kaufmann, Laguna Canyon Foundation, PO Box 4895, Laguna Beach CA 92652

Essential Functions

The person in this position:

  • Constantly works in outdoors in a wide range of weather conditions.
  • Constantly traverses off-trail over rough terrain and steep slopes, sometimes through thick vegetation.
  • Frequently lifts and carries loads up to 25 pounds and occasionally lifts loads up to 50 pounds.
  • Frequently positions self close to the ground in order to pull weeds, fix irrigation lines, etc.
  • Frequently grips and manipulates hand tools such as shovels, picks, loppers, wrenches, hammers, etc.
  • Constantly exchanges information both verbally and in written form with supervisor, co-workers, and others.
  • Remains in a stationary position for up to 30% of the time.

 

Actually LESS than one week! Join Laguna Canyon Foundation and the Orange County Community Foundation next Wednesday and Thursday, April 27th and 28th, for 30 hours in an effort to super-charge local giving. Donate online at our i♥oc page! Donating makes us eligible for exciting prizes, including:

Club 1,000The first nonprofit to receive a single donation of $1,000 or more (early birds, set your alarms!)
Mega Multiplier Donor ChallengeNonprofit that receives the most unique donors overall
50/50 ChallengeThe first nonprofit to receive 50 unique donations of $50 or more

And more!

Plus, just donating to LCF gives us access to the Grow the Good Bonus Pool! All participating nonprofits receive a portion of the $400,000 bonus pool – and the more money we raise, the bigger our “slice of the pie” is.

LCF relies on support from our donors. With your help, we:

• Restore critical wildlife habitat
• Maintain and improve trails
• Provide free standards-based field trips for local schools and underprivileged students from surrounding cities
• Introduce people to the open space through a variety of free hikes and other public programs, from introductory mountain biking to wildflower hikes and nature photography

We are grateful for our supporters each and every day. Whether you’re a major donor, a longterm volunteer, or an avid hiker or mountain biker who loves our trails and open space, LCF is for you! Join us next Wednesday and Thursday and help us Keep It Wild by donating on Giving Day!

Remember, all donations are tax-deductible and go directly to LCF programs. Our donation page will go “live” at 6 am April 27th – all donations must be made during the 30-hour Giving Day, 6 am April 27th – noon April 28th.

Remember to share our campaign on Twitter and Facebook and help us win the Mega Multiplier Donor Challenge! Just copy and paste any of the following:

• #iheartoc Giving Day starts April 27th! Join me and donate to #LagunaCanyonFoundation: https://iheartoc.org/npo/laguna-canyon-foundation

• #GiveWhereYourHeartLives April 27-28! #KeepItWild with Laguna Canyon Foundation! https://iheartoc.org/npo/laguna-canyon-foundation

• Help your favorite charity earn prizes on #iheartoc Giving Day April 27-28! #KeepItWild with https://iheartoc.org/npo/laguna-canyon-foundation

And join us 6 am April 27th – noon April 28th for 30 hours of giving!

Change is in the air at Laguna Canyon Foundation! After an intense talent search and interview process, we’re excited to announce the hiring of our new Outreach Manager, Paula Olson! Paula will be overseeing our education and volunteer programs, leading hikes, writing grants, and, as all of us do, helping out with whatever needs to be done. Paula is a longtime Laguna local and a certified Master Gardener and has a wealth of nonprofit experience, most recently with Western Growers trade association. She is enthusiastic about outreach and volunteering, and we’re excited to have her on board.

Paula will be joining our team just in time – after over six years with LCF, our Education Coordinator and interim Volunteer Coordinator, Jordan Van Durme, has been hired as an RN at Huntington Memorial Hospital Emergency Department! Jordan has worked hard to complete his nursing program while still doing an amazing amount of work for LCF – everything from personally taking classes on field trips and leading volunteer orientations to the detailed work of scheduling, communication, and administration – and while we’re sad to see him go, we’re all very happy for him and proud of all he’s accomplished. Jordan will be staying on through the first half of April to help Paula get settled and gradually hand over the reins before Paula begins full-time mid-April.

Jordan promises to continue to be a part of the LCF family, and he’ll be around to assist with larger projects and act as a resource as needed (luckily for all of us)! Join us in congratulating both Jordan and Paula on their new positions, and welcoming Paula to the LCF team.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is thrilled to announce our participation in the second annual i❤oc Giving Day! Join us from 6 am on April 27 to noon on April 28, 2016 to “Give Where Your Heart Lives” and celebrate and support Orange County nonprofits.

i❤oc is a thirty-hour online giving day hosted by the Orange County Community Foundation that brings together over 400 participating nonprofits – including Laguna Canyon Foundation! Show your love by supporting us on April 27th and 28th through our i❤oc website (link coming soon). Your donation will provide vital support to Laguna Canyon Foundation’s programs, including:

  • Our education program, which offers FREE standards-based nature programs to thousands of students from eleven Orange County Title 1 schools
  • Our trails program, which works hand in hand with Orange County Parks staff to improve and maintain our seventy-mile network of trails in Laguna Coast and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks
  • Our volunteer program, which served 350,000 park visitors last year over nearly 7,000 volunteer hours, and offers approximately thirty free public programs per month to Orange County residents and visitors alike

All donations through i❤oc are tax-deductible, and your donation goes directly to Laguna Canyon Foundation. Plus, OCCF offers a bonus pool providing a percentage match of all donations made – and donating to LCF through the i❤oc website on Giving Day gives us a chance to win additional prizes of up to $5,000!

Visit the i❤oc website for more information, and keep watching the LCF blog and Facebook page for our Giving Day website link and more information on prizes, how to participate, and easy ways to spread the word!