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Have you visited Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s Nix Nature Center?

In 2000, Leisure World residents Jim and Rosemary Nix pledged $500,000 to Laguna Canyon Foundation toward their dream of building a nature center in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Their dream became reality when the James and Rosemary Nix Nature Center opened in March 2007.

The “Nix,” as it is affectionately called, is located in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s Little Sycamore Canyon, at the heart of the 22,000-acre South Coast Wilderness center of parks and preserves, in the midst of 55 miles of trails, and just south of Barbara’s Lake. The 3,000 square foot center incorporates earth-friendly design elements like rammed-earth walls and use of natural lighting and ventilation.

Outside, visitors can find outdoor seating, interpretive panels, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s donor recognition banners, a painter’s pier, and a wheelchair accessible loop trail. Inside are interpretive exhibits with interactive displays, fossil-embedded rockwork, trail maps and bottled water for purchase, and more. Visitors can check out the daily Wildlife Sightings whiteboard and add their own sightings from the trail.

While LCF and OC Parks will always be grateful to the late Jim and Rosemary Nix for their generous contribution, construction of the nature center was a true partnership. A voter approve state park bond funded $1.5 million in construction costs. Private donations to LCF and state bond money contributed another $450,000, and the Orange County Parks Department contributed $750,000 to make the Nixes’ dream a reality.

In 2007, the center’s exhibits were awarded the National Association for Interpretation Award for Interpretive Media. Today, the Nix is still a “little gem hidden in the busy world we live in,” according to supervising ranger Matt Stegner. LCF volunteer Roxanna Bradley has volunteered at the Nix since 2007. She loves meeting and educating park visitors and sharing her love of the parks with others, as well as seeing all the creatures that live around and visit the Nix. 

The Nix is located at 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, north of the 73, and is open from 9 am – 4 pm seven days a week. Admission is free – just $3 for parking. Check it out!

Interested in volunteering at the Nix, or elsewhere in the parks? Check out our volunteer page for more information, and register for our upcoming volunteer orientation on September 17th.

Thanks to Brian Flynn for the photograph!

We all belong in the parks, people and animals alike. The South Coast Wilderness is your open space, and we encourage you to explore it, to enjoy it, and to make it your own.

As you visit the parks and hike or ride the trails, remember that the open space is the home to many creatures: deer, bobcat, coyotes, foxes, snakes, hawks, rabbits, woodrats, insects and native plants. When we venture off trail or allow our dogs in areas preserved for wildlife, we upset a delicate balance of plant and animal life. In addition, it’s dangerous for us and our dogs.

Just as we humans are required to stay on the trails, our furry friends must do the same. Here’s why:

  • Dogs are predators. Wild animals will avoid place that a dog has marked. This reduces the wildlife’s habitat and makes it more difficult to find food.
  • Domestic dog scent disrupts the lives of gray foxes and coyotes, who also mark their territories.
  • Dogs scare native birds, like quail, from their nests. This can cause the death of their young.
  • It’s dangerous for our dogs to be off leash, off trail and where they aren’t allowed.
    • Dogs can pick up poison oak.
    • Dogs can be bitten by rattlesnakes.
    • Dogs get ticks which carry Lyme and other diseases.

When visiting the parks, it’s important to keep dogs on-leash and bring them only on dog-friendly trails. A six-foot leash is required at all times, and dog waste must be picked up. Dogs are not allowed in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. In Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, dogs are allowed on the following trails:

  • Aliso Creek Bike Trail
  • Aliso Peak Trail
  • Aliso Summit Trail
  • Aswut Trail
  • Canyon Acres Trail
  • Pecten Reef Loop Trail
  • Toovet Trail
  • West Ridge Trail

You can download a trail map of Aliso and Wood Canyons here.

In addition, there are many other dog-friendly options near the South Coast Wilderness, including:

Laguna Beach Dog Park
20612 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach

A Place for Paws
Ridge Route Drive and Peralta Drive
Laguna Woods

Costa Mesa Bark Park
890 Arlington Drive
Costa Mesa

Laguna Niguel Pooch Park
31461 Golden Lantern
Laguna Niguel

San Clemente Dog Park
301 Avenida La Pata
San Clemente

Thank you for your help in protecting our parks!

Are you taking advantage of the Charitable IRA Rollover? This is a wonderful opportunity to provide a significant gift to Laguna Canyon Foundation and #ProtectWhatYouLove while avoiding taxation on IRA distributions. Support vital habitat restoration, trail maintenance and improvements, and outdoor education for Title 1 students, all while saving money. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Here’s how it works:


  • Donors must be 70.5 years old or older
  • Funds must be transferred directly from your financial institution to Laguna Canyon Foundation (may not be transferred to donor advised funds)
  • Transfers must be from a traditional or Roth IRA
  • You can donate any amount up to $100,000 per person (couples with separate IRAs may donate up to $200,000)


This charitable rollover does count towards your IRA’s annual required minimum distribution (RMD). It’s a great opportunity to make an additional tax-free gift this year, even if you’ve maximized your annual charitable deduction.

Want to learn more? Find out details here. Interested in supporting Laguna Canyon Foundation directly from your IRA, avoiding income taxes on the gift? Tell your financial advisor or IRA administrator that you’d like to make a Charitable IRA Rollover to Laguna Canyon Foundation, or call us at (949)497-8324.


Thank you for your ongoing support!

Laguna Canyon Foundation is excited to announce that it has received a $50,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation to support the South Coast Wilderness Education Program. The SCWEP provides enriching opportunities for local students at underperforming schools to experience the wilderness in an increasingly urban world.

“We are honored to have been selected for this highly prestigious grant, and are thrilled to have secured funding for this year’s South Coast Wilderness Education Program,” said Hallie Jones, Executive Director of Laguna Canyon Foundation. “This grant will allow us to bring up to 5,000 students into the wilderness over the 2016-17 school year, instilling a love of the open space and fostering the next generation of environmental stewards.”

Many children growing up in some of Orange County’s urban communities rarely have a chance to be surrounded by nature. This is particularly true for students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools that receive Part A, Title I (“Title I”) federal financial assistance, which often lack the resources needed to organize extracurricular activities or field trips. LCF’s South Coast Wilderness Education Program focuses on partnering with these schools to provide free outdoor education field trips, including bus transportation. The program is an integral part of LCF’s core mission of preserving, protecting, enhancing and promoting the 22,000 acres of South Coast Wilderness located in Orange County, ensuring this wonderful community resource continues to provide a valuable refuge for urban dwellers seeking natural beauty and solitude.

About the Annenberg Foundation

The Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. Since 1989, it has generously funded programs in education and youth development; arts, culture and humanities; civic and community life; health and human services; and animal services and the environment. In addition, the Foundation and its Board of Directors are directly involved in the community with innovative projects that further its mission of advancing a better tomorrow through visionary leadership today. Among them are Annenberg Alchemy, Annenberg Learner, Annenberg Space for Photography, Explore, GroW@Annenberg and the Metabolic Studio. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to communicate by sharing ideas and knowledge.

It’s October – and though the summer heat hasn’t quite departed yet, we at Laguna Canyon Foundation are turning our sights towards cooler weather and our most active season. From more frequent hikes taking advantage of mild California autumns and winters, to an intensive trial maintenance and improvement schedule, to restoration work and preparation for the planting season, there’s a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months!

October also marks the return of our monthly Keep It Wild volunteer days. Keep It Wild days occur on the third Saturday of each month from October to May, with simultaneous projects in both Aliso and Wood Canyons and Laguna Coast Wilderness Parks. Keep It Wild volunteers work side-by-side with OC Parks rangers and Laguna Canyon Foundation staff to remove invasive species, plant new plants, brush “social” (unauthorized) trails, and maintain existing trails. These are one-time events that do not require orientation or advance training – just register online and join us for a fun, fulfilling morning out in our beautiful parks!

Click on the links below to register for an upcoming Keep It Wild day:

Aliso and Wood Canyons

Laguna Coast

You can also join us for a Nursery Plant Propagation and Care Day for another great way to contribute to LCF without an ongoing volunteer commitment. Held in our Willow plant nursery, nursery volunteers may collect seeds, sow seeds in flats, sterilize plant containers and equipment and/or help maintain the facilities.

Register for an upcoming nursery day below:

Thanks to all our volunteers, and remember, #KeepItWild!

Have you considered remembering Laguna Canyon Foundation in your estate? A planned gift is a wonderful way to establish your legacy and ensure the continued success of Laguna Canyon Foundation’s mission. We rely on the generosity of our donors to accomplish our work.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is dedicated to preserving, protecting, enhancing and promoting the South Coast Wilderness – a network of open space that includes Laguna Coast Wilderness Park & Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Orange County, California. Over our 25 year history, we have: 

  • Been instrumental in saving the 22,000 acres of the South Coast Wilderness from development and ensuring the land was put under permanent protection.
  • Partnered with the County of Orange and our generous donors to build the James and Rosemary Nix Nature Center, winner of the National Association for Interpretation Award for Interpretive Media, which has offered interactive exhibits, a painter’s pier, and a meeting place in the heart of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park since 2006.
  • Expanded our education program from serving 522 students from two Title 1 schools during the program’s first year in 2007-08 to serving 3380 students from eleven Title 1 schools during the 2015-16 school year.
  • Completed work on over 100 acres of habitat within the South Coast Wilderness and its surrounding area since our habitat restoration program’s launch in 2011.
  • Offered a variety of ways for residents and visitors alike to explore and become familiar with their public lands with approximately 30 public programs, including multiple volunteer days, provided every month. Diverse volunteer opportunities allow residents to strengthen connections to both the land and the community while pursuing their own talents and interests.

We’re excited to look ahead to our future, and we invite you to help support the great projects we have planned. A charitable bequest to Laguna Canyon Foundation will ensure the conservation of our open space for generations to come, while protecting your own family’s financial future. Your gift to the wilderness parks tells the world that open space is important to you. With your support, we can educate, maintain, and support the many uses of the park in perpetuity.

Contact us at (949) 497-8324 to learn more about leaving a legacy gift for Laguna Canyon Foundation.


Is the thought of planned giving leaving you feeling overwhelmed? LCF is a co-sponsor of two financial and charitable gift planning workshops presented by the nonprofit FEELincontrol. The “It’s Your Money” and “It’s Your Estate” workshops, now in their 23rd year, provide resources and information for seniors to make confident financial, estate and charitable decisions today for the future. The workshops’ purpose is to educate you to benefit you first, family second, and your favorite charity third.  The workshops are free and informational only (no attempts to sell insurance or solicit donations) – click here for the current workshop schedule!

LCF was humbled and gratified to receive a $250,000 check from the estate of Jim and Rosemary Nix last week. The Nixes were some of Laguna Canyon Foundation’s biggest supporters during their lifetimes. In 2000, they pledged $500,000 to LCF toward their dream of building a nature center in Laguna Coast Wilderness park. Their vision became reality when the James and Rosemary Nix Nature Center opened in 2006. Jim and Rosemary made many other generous donations to LCF over the years, including funding for the monument signs at park staging areas. We are honored and forever grateful for their ongoing support, enthusiasm, and generosity.

Many members of LCF’s staff and board, as well as OC Parks staff, worked closely with the Nixes, and all remember them fondly. According to those who knew them, “Jim and Rosemary were such incredibly special and generous people and their legacies shine bright…” “They were so genuine, and interested in LCF and the wilderness parks…” “The Nix Nature Center is a fitting reflection of their interest and commitment. It was my joy to know them.” “[Jim and Rosemary] were both so hands-on and a delight to be with. Those experiences will continue to be some of my favorites for the rest of my life.”

The Nix Nature Center has won multiple awards, including:

AIA California Council Merit Award
American Concrete Institute Award
AIA Orange County, Award of Excellence
AIA San Diego Honor Award

LCF plans to use the Nixes’ legacy gift as the seed money for an endowment – a longtime dream of the organization, and an important step towards long-term financial security and sustainability. Please contact us if you are interested in contributing to the Laguna Canyon Foundation endowment principal or setting up a legacy gift to Laguna Canyon Foundation.

On Sunday, June 26th, a brushfire began in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park near the Laguna Ridge Trail, leading to closures of both Laguna Coast and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks. Firefighters fought to contain and put out the fire, and both parks were open again by Thursday, June 30th – but not before 50 acres had been burned.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. While all of us at LCF and OC Parks are devastated by the fire and the loss of habitat and hours of trailwork it represents, we are determined to minimize its effects – and we need your help!


How can I help?

The most important thing you can do to help is to stay out of the burn area. While it’s true that the Laguna Ridge Trail passes through the burn area, we ask that you refrain from using the trail until it is officially reopened. With the vegetation gone, it can be difficult to recognize the difference between trail and sensitive, burned habitat. Left alone, much of the fire-adapted vegetation in the burned area will resprout from root stock or germinate from burned-over seed. Trampling can damage this new vegetation and create long-lasting damage due to erosion and soil compaction. Please help ensure our park makes a speedy recovery by giving it the time and space it needs for vegetation to regrow.

Since the fire, we have found cigarette butts, used matches, and firework debris in the parks. Remember that smoking and setting off fireworks is not allowed within the parks! Even a small spark can set a blaze; a moment’s carelessness or a cigarette not fully snuffed out can mean days of dangerous work for our fire department, dozens of acres burned, and a habitat recovery process that can take years. Be safe, take care of our open space, and do not smoke, light fires, or set off fireworks within the parks.


Thank you for helping us Protect What You Love!

Summer is a great time to get out and have fun in the canyon! Though Laguna Canyon Foundation’s monthly “Keep it Wild” volunteer days are officially on hold for the summer months, we still offer hikes and summer events – you can see what’s offered and register online. Make sure to check out our special summer events like Blacklighting for National Moth Week at the end of July and our Full Moon Hike in August, and doublecheck times – some hikes have earlier start times to avoid the midday summer heat.

Whether you’re joining us for a guided hike or enjoying the trails on your own, it’s important to keep health and safety in mind, especially during the summer. The canyon can get very hot and it’s easy to become dehydrated or overheated. Keep these tips in mind while hiking or biking:

  • Wear light, loose clothing and a hat.
  • Wear sunscreen and reapply as needed.
  • Bring plenty of water and stay hydrated – drink before you think you need to.
  • Start first thing in the morning, before the sun gets too high.
  • If hiking on a dog legal trail, be aware that dogs are often more sensitive to heat. Don’t put your best friend in danger.

Be aware of animals as well! Snakes live in our parks too, and you may be lucky enough to see one sunning itself on the trail. If you see a snake, remember these tips, modified from the American Hiking Society:

  • Leave snakes alone. Most bites occur when people get too close or try to touch or kill a snake. Snakes can strike faster and farther than you might think – some nearly half their body length. If you see a snake in the wild, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet.
  • Never touch a snake, even if you think it is dead. The fangs of a dead snake can still inject venom.
  • Don’t step into places outdoors that you can’t see. Don’t pick up rocks or firewood unless you are out of a snake’s striking distance. Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks. If you have to traverse a fallen log, step on the log and then down instead of just over.
  • Wearing boots and long pants when hiking may prevent snakebites. Remain on the trail and out of long grass. Always wear closed-toed shoes.

And coyotes, while a rare sight, are an important part of the canyon ecosystem. Read our blog post on coyotes to learn more about these predators and follow simple practices to keep both them and yourself safe.

Have fun and #KeepItWild!