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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.

While participating in Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education program last week, a third grade class, hiking along the Lake Trail in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, could barely keep silent as they spotted a bunny. Their hands went up as they flexed their fingers, signaling that an animal was near. They knew to whisper and keep as quiet as they could, so as not to frighten the animal and allow their fellow students to observe. The bunny stood very still, almost impossible to see, for just moments, and then scurried off behind the bushes.

From September through June each year, at several staging areas in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education staff hosts up to 80 field trips for Title One elementary school students. With the support of grants and our generous donors, more than 4,500 students get the opportunity to explore and learn about our wonderful open spaces every year. These children have seen many inhabitants of the canyon, including rabbits, deer, snakes, gophers, lizards, roadrunners, coyotes, and raptors and other birds.

Last week’s bunny sighting was the perfect opportunity to learn about camouflage and adaptations. The students played a “Predator and Prey” game under the 133 bridge, having fun and learning about survival, before moving on to Barbara’s Lake. Along the way the students smelled white sage and learned about the importance of coast live oak to the survival of the Native American Acjahemen tribe.

At Barbara’s Lake, now dry, they learned about the drought and water conservation. Students were asked how each of us could save water. Seeing the parched lake, the concerned students had many suggestions: take shorter showers, don’t let the water run in the bathroom and kitchen, and use any leftover drinking water for plants and pets rather than just throwing it down the drain.

Tailored per grade level, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s programs teach students about art in nature, adaptations, geology, nutrition, and, of course, conservation and preservation. In the midst of a beautiful hike, children learn to pick up trash, stay on the trails and respect the animals’ home.

After pointing out to the class many plants along the trails, the educator asked, “What is a native plant?”

The attentive students thought for a bit, then one student, Samantha, raised her hand. “It’s a plant that belongs here.”

Indeed – and that is what Laguna Canyon Foundation’s South Coast Wilderness Education Program aims to instill: a sense of belonging. Each of us – along with the plants and animals of the canyon – belong here. This is all of our land to care for, share, and pass on to the next generation.

Thank you to our generous education supporters, including the Cultural Vision Fund and the AHE/CI Trust (both in memory of Elizabeth E. Fleming), the Annenberg Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Schlinger Foundation, and Marcia Tilker.

Interested in supporting the South Coast Wilderness Education Program? Donate today, or email us for more information.

As we continue through this November heat wave, it’s nice to remember that we did recently have rain. Please enjoy this poem by one of our fabulous volunteers, Chuck Wright. Not only is he a poet and a photographer (enjoy his photo of a Western Fence Lizard above), he dedicates countless hours to restoring our open spaces — whatever the weather may be.

Thank you, Chuck.



the busy operator or robot
“Please hold”
and then you wait and wait and wait

nature has been put
“on hold”

no water
no dew
no moisture

and then last week it came
glorious rain

.3 on an inch in LCWP
on the north facing slope
barbara’s lake hill

restoration site

i gape in wonder &
like it is supposed to be GREEN

bryophytes galore
mosses green & plump
and ferns with fronds at
least an inch long

oh i
hope the pause
of the “please
will be no
let there be
green green green


Laguna Canyon Foundation was formed to preserve and protect the South Coast Wilderness. We accomplish this through unique partnerships with land managers, City and County leadership, park users and the environmental community. Together, we can #keepitwild and #protectwhatyoulove.

If you have ever taken a hike or a ride in Aliso and Woods Canyons or in Laguna Coast Wilderness or even driven by the open space, then you’ve seen the rich and diverse ecosystem we are privileged to live near. We have a collective responsibility to ensure the inhabitants – both plants and animals – have their place to call home.

Coyotes have been in North America for thousands of years and, because of regular encroachment to their habitat, coyotes remain very adaptable.  The coyotes’ preferred space is the open grassland, but they will, of course, go where there is food.  They are omnivores with an excellent sense of smell and they are skilled hunters.  Coyotes are nocturnal animals; however, if outside forces (including humans) cause imbalance in their environment and adaptation is necessary, coyotes will hunt during the day.

Coyotes are loyal, often mating for years to raise pups, which are birthed every spring (April/May).  Coyotes’ social organization is built around the mated pair and includes packs, solitary residents, and nomads.

The name coyote is a Spanish derivative of the original Aztec name, coyotl, which means “barking dog.”  Coyotes communicate with howls, yelps and huffs.  Local Laguna residents often describe the sound as “lighting up with the canyon” with coyote song.  When a coyote howls, it is communicating its location to other coyotes.  Yelps often mean celebration or discipline with pups and adolescents.  Huffing is a coyote’s whisper to its young.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife have an initiative called, “Keep Me Wild.” Its slogan is:  “Wild animals don’t need your handouts.  They need your respect.” How fitting as Laguna Canyon Foundation strives to #KeepItWild.   As stated on the CDFW’s website:

 [We] may not realize it … but a simple bag of garbage, bowl of pet food, or plate of leftovers left outside our home or in a neighboring park can cause severe harm to wildlife.  Most wild animals keep their distance – so long as they remain fully wild. 

If coyotes lose their natural fear of humans, they become bolder, less wild, and more dependent on us.  A few tips to #keepitwild:

  • If you see a coyote near you, haze it.  Make loud noises and big gestures. If you have a jacket, wave it like a cape, making yourself big. If necessary, throw rocks near the coyote.
  • When walking your dogs, keep them on a leash.  Coyotes are clever and can lure domestic dogs to a vulnerable place where you cannot protect your pet.
  • Seal garbage cans; pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.  Do not leave trash anywhere.
  • Install motion sensitive lighting around your house and switch up its location from time to time. Remember, coyotes are smart.
  • Above all, keep your pets inside! An outdoor cat or small dog left alone in a yard is a prime target for hunting coyotes.

For more tips and information, talk to an OC Park Ranger, visit the Nix Nature Center or go to:




Please join us for Laguna Canyon Foundation’s and OC Parks’ volunteer orientation program and meet other fabulous volunteers, Laguna Canyon Foundation staff and OC Park Rangers!

Sunday, June 5, 2016
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Nix Nature Center
18751 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, California 92651

Amid breathtaking views, you will learn about:

  • Laguna Canyon Foundation’s history and mission
  • OC Parks’ history and mission
  • Basics of volunteering:  paperwork, policies and requirements
  • How you can make a difference and #keepitwild

Our open space is so beautiful and there are many ways you can volunteer:

  • WAVing! (Wilderness Advocate Volunteer). Spend a few hours at trailheads sharing your knowledge of trails, wildlife and plants with visitors.
    • Willow
    • Big Bend
    • Nix
    • Dilley
    • Alta Laguna
    • … and more!
  • Assisting OC park rangers in Laguna Coast and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks
  • Leading hikes and rides
  • Restoring and maintaining trails
  • Working in the nursery to propagate native plants
  • Assisting staff with administrative work

To reserve your space at the Orientation, please email paula@lagunacanyon.org with your full name, phone number and city of residence.

As a park volunteer, you can assist with protecting, preserving, enhancing and promoting the natural beauty of over 22,000 acres of the South Coast Wilderness.

Join us and protect what you love!