Laguna Canyon Foundation is happy to introduce its newest staff member, Restoration Technician Adam Verrell.

Adam was born and raised in the great state of Washington. A lifetime of love for the natural world lead him to study Conservation Biology at the University of Washington in Seattle, earning a BS in 2015. Coupling his interests with a passion for adventure, he has worked in habitat restoration in the Ecuadorian Amazon, earned a permaculture certification in Costa Rica, worked on organic farms in locations ranging from Belize to New Zealand, and was most recently part of an eco-friendly landscaping crew in Portland, Oregon. Hands-on experience in a wide variety of ecosystems have given him a strong background in sustainable land management and landscape maintenance, which he now brings with him to his restoration work in the canyon. He relocated to Orange County in late 2017 to join Laguna Canyon Foundation’s restoration team.

Adam has been hard at work since he joined LCF in late October, mainly out in the field with Restoration and Trails Director Alan Kaufmann, Restoration Manager Josie Bennett, and Restoration Coordinator Cameron Davis. Adam works as the “boots on the ground” lead of Laguna Canyon Foundation’s restoration department. He has been taking on all aspects of preparing for the imminent planting season, from managing weeds and setting up irrigation systems to retrieving plants from the nursery and preparing the restoration sites. Adam has also been working on Laguna Canyon Foundation’s Crownbeard Transplantation project, assisting with the delicate work of safely transplanting this rare and threatened species, and attended some of our Restoration Stewardship volunteer events.

He’s already become a key part of the restoration team, and we’re glad to have him on board! Please join us in welcoming Adam to the LCF team.

On a recent education hike at James Dilley Preserve, Marco, a 5th grade student, impressed one of our Field Educators by arriving with his Field Journal from the prior year’s hike. In it, he had continued his observations and drawings about nature and the open space. This was something we encourage: be inquisitive; be creative; enjoy nature – wherever you are – and write down your thoughts, sketch what you see, and make notes on what you want to research.

Since 2006, Laguna Canyon Foundation has been partnering with several Santa Ana schools to bring second through fifth graders to the South Coast Wilderness. In the open space, a living classroom, students learn from a different angle, in the fresh air and among native flora and fauna.

 

Our partnerships have grown. In 2017, we expanded to 12 partner Title 1 elementary schools. Using NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) to ensure an informative and enjoyable outing for both students and teachers alike, Laguna Canyon Foundation tailors the hikes for each grade level:

Second Grade:          Art in Nature

Third Grade:              Adapting and Surviving

Fourth Grade:           Let’s Create a Habitat

Fifth Grade                The Power of Observation

There are several unique aspects of our education program.

  • Free of charge to the schools. Laguna Canyon Foundation hosts, at no cost to the schools, up to 85 school trips per year, serving more than 4,500 students. Through the generous donations of our supporters and grantors we are able to cover costs of busing, supplies and staff.
  • Students return each year. We are grateful for the commitment of the principals, teachers and parents who ensure the success of our program, which is designed so that each student – throughout their elementary school journey – may return from their second grade year through their fifth grade year. We build on the life sciences, growing and developing future environmentalists, conservationists and scientists.
  • Our education staff are trained field educators. Prior to leading a group of students, our field educators, already experienced naturalists in our canyon, repeatedly walk the specific trails we will be using for our hikes with the students. They know to point out certain plants on the trails…where a woodrat nest is…where a fossil is. While they can answer many, many of the students’ questions, they also know that they are scientists too, learning together alongside the students on each and every hike.
  • Each year, we “adapt.” With each outing as a new experience, we see ways to improve. We take input from our grantors, teachers, parents, students, field educators and volunteers to make each year better than the next.

As one teacher said, “Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education hike is often the only time my students get out in nature and, after experiencing it myself, I am grateful to see how seriously the field instructors take their responsibility. They make it really special for my kids.”

Learn more about our programs at lagunacanyon.org/education.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is thrilled to announce the funding of the Pecten Reef Habitat Restoration Project! The Pecten Reef project is being funded by a $677,400 grant through the California State Coastal Conservancy. Laguna Canyon Foundation and the Coastal Conservancy have a long history of partnership, with numerous projects funded totaling 12.5 million dollars. This total includes over $10 million towards land acquisition to preserve 310 acres of sensitive habitat and $160,000 towards designing and installing new interpretive signage in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

The Pecten Reef project is located in the northeastern extension of Aliso and Wood Canyons, within the Aliso Creek watershed. Aliso Creek is one of the major stream systems in Orange County, running for a little under 20 miles from the foothills of the Santa Ana mountains to the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach. It’s one of the last remaining natural creeks in Orange County and is an important wildlife corridor that connects the mountains to the sea.

Human impacts on the creek include increased water flow, the introduction of non-native weeds, and high bacteria levels. These factors have led to the creek being added to the Clean Water Act list of impaired waters. 4.8 million dollars have already been invested in rehabilitating the creek through efforts including invasive weed control, habitat restoration, and the construction of the 2-acre Dairy Fork wetland to capture runoff water from surrounding communities.

The Pecten Reef project is in one of the most sensitive and important areas in the Aliso Creek Watershed, and contains critical habitat for sensitive, threatened, and endangered species such as the Southwestern Pond Turtle and Least Bell’s Vireo.

In addition to improving the habitat surrounding the creek, another goal of this project is to revegetate an exposed portion of Pecten Hill. Pecten Hill is made up of the limestone remains of an 18-million-year-old tropical shell reef (and is what gives Pecten Reef its name); this is in fact one of the only preserved portions of the ancient marine reef.

Our vision of this project is to create a resilient home for wildlife, help to improve water quality in Aliso Creek, protect sensitive paleontological resources, and offer hands-on stewardship events for the public.

Interested in getting a closer look at this area? Ready for some hands-on habitat restoration? Join us on the second Tuesday of the month at our Pecten Reef stewardship events! Sign up at lagunacanyon.org/activities.

Our vision: A resilient ecosystem

For the past 13 years, my husband and I have walked our dogs daily on the fire road between Moulton Meadows Park in Arch Beach Heights and Sommet du Monde, a private enclave with half a dozen houses. Time and weather permitting, we often go further, along Alta Laguna to Top of the World.

The southwest view from these walks is Laguna Beach, with all its beautiful homes, protected coastline, nestled canyons – Oro, Nyes and Bluebird – and the expansive Pacific Ocean reaching out to Catalina and beyond.

The east view is Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, home to native flora and fauna and miles of trails including Mentally Sensitive, Dripping Cave, and Five Oaks. From our fire road perch, eyes lifted may gaze across the canyons to the ridgeline of Laguna Niguel’s Aliso Summit Trail and further still to Cleveland National Forest. Aliso Viejo landmarks such as the Ziggurat Building and Soka University can be easily spotted and, if timed right, one can even experience the fireworks going off at Disneyland.

Aliso Creek runs her 19-mile course from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Pacific Ocean through Aliso and Wood Canyons. Hills covered in mule fat, coast live oak, toyon, and coyote gourd rise up from the creek. Take a sniff: the sages are earthy and the coyote gourd will surely wake you up! If “earbudless” (not often the case in today’s world), one could perhaps hear a coyote howl, a warbler sing, a western fence lizard scurry, or a covey of quail coo-cooing, their call often described as “Chi-CAA-go; Chi-CAA-go.”

While the southwest view is what drew most of us – my husband and me included – to Laguna Beach, it is the east view, and the rich native habitat surrounding us, that has won my heart.

Laguna Beach is a cornucopia of individual neighborhoods, each minutes away from an amazing trailhead. The North Laguna “tree street” neighborhood has Dartmoor which winds up to Bommer Ridge, Emerald Canyon and many other trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Canyon Acres has, well, Canyon Acres Trail climbing to Westridge and beautiful Catalina views. Mystic Hills has Park Avenue Trail and its lush and rocky terrain, and South Laguna has Valido Trail with a quick 900-foot elevation gain, well worth the effort to see a spectacular view of Aliso Creek meeting the Pacific. 

Our neighboring communities also have wilderness trails nearby: Laguna Woods has Woods End; Aliso Viejo has Cholla, and Laguna Niguel has Wood Creek, to name just a few.

And whether you’re reading this thinking, “Yeah, been there; I ride/hike it every weekend,” or “What strange names and places; I must learn more,” or something in between, these 22,000 acres of biodiverse habitat surely enrich our lives. As Laguna Beach residents, it is clear how much we love our city, our beaches, our culture and our neighbors. We take pride in our community. Inspired by The Saloon, our motto may say it best: “Be nice. You’re in Laguna!”

Let’s also love — and be nice to — our open space, that “east view,” the treasure that many Lagunans – more than 25 years ago – fought to protect against development. It is our backyard. Take a look. We must protect it.

Interested in learning more? Laguna Canyon Foundation has been protecting and preserving our wilderness since 1990. Call us; email us. We’d love to chat.

With temperatures hitting 80 degrees this week in southern California, it might be hard to believe that we marked the first day of fall on September 22nd. While we might not see dramatic seasonal changes like the leaves changing color back east, there are many changes to see if you look closely! As the days begin to shorten, watch for late season flowers in bloom, including sand aster (Corethrogyne filaginifolia), clustered tarweed (Deinandra fasciculate) and twiggy wreath plant (Stephanomeria virgate). These plants offer important resources for local birds and other pollinators.


Twiggy wreath plant

One of our most exciting seasonal changes is the fall migration of birds into and out of Southern California. As we say goodbye to birds such as the Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Wilson’s Warbler, we are able to say hello once again to the Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush.


Yellow-rumped Warbler

The Northern Arctic Tern, which travels up to 24,000 miles a year, holds the record for the longest migration path of any migratory bird. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of energy for a bird to travel such a long distance. You may be asking yourself, why not stay in one place like most of us humans do?  The simplest answer is that birds leave one area when the resources that they rely on become less abundant and move to another area where resources are more abundant. Birds depend heavily on the plant community where they make their home to provide them with shelter, food and places to nest. Without these resources, birds are unable to thrive.

Whether you are out on the trail hiking, taking a bike ride, or volunteering at one of our stewardship events, it’s always a good time to look for birds! Keep your eye out for some of these fall migrants:

Join our next birding walk in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park on Sunday, October 29th and benefit from our volunteer naturalists’ expertise as they point out and identify both local and migratory birds!

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!

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.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is hiring Field Instructors to support our outdoor education program!

Position Summary

The Field Instructors support the goals and objectives of Laguna Canyon Foundation by bringing awareness of and engagement with the open space. Throughout the school year, Laguna Canyon Foundation will host approximately 85 field trips, during which each field instructor will lead a grade-specific, educational hike for approximately 15 students and their teachers/chaperones.

During each grade-specific trip, students will enjoy an outdoor adventure that encourages a scientific mindset while connecting with nature through fun activities and exploration. Students will “think like a scientist,” and will leave with ideas and tools to explore and wonder about nature wherever and whenever they see a patch of green in their world.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Lead several educational hikes in the canyon each week during the school year.
  • Adhere to written program guidelines (Next Generation Science Standards based) to teach children grade-specific curricula.
  • Encourage engagement, observations and wonder with each student.
  • Understand and carry out both oral and written instructions
  • Performs other duties as assigned or requested.

Required Skills and Experience

  • Commitment to the vision and mission of Laguna Canyon Foundation.
  • Demonstrated experience working with children of a variety of ages in an outdoor environment showing patience and kindness.
  • Ability to interact successfully with supervisors, teachers, and parents.
  • Punctuality, flexibility and dependability.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills.
  • Knowledgeable of local plant and animal life and ability to memorize and recall facts, figures and information.
  • Ability to hike on trails, in a variety of weather; ability to lift up to 50 pounds
  • CPR/First Aid certified or ability to become certified (LCF will pay for training course); ability to respond to immediate needs of students, participants and hikers. Fingerprinting for a background check will be required.

Desired Skills and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university with coursework in environmental studies, sustainability, science or related field preferred.
  • Ability to speak Spanish preferred.

Schedule, Salary and Benefits

  • Education programs run from September 2017 through June 2018. Although programs could be scheduled any weekday, programs will be mostly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from approximately 8:00am – 12:30pm.
  • This is a part-time position and pays $14 per hour.
  • Each Instructor will work (on average) two days per week during the school year. Instructors are able to choose their own workdays within the overall program schedule.

Physical Demands/Work Environment

The physical demands and work environment described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

About Laguna Canyon Foundation

Laguna Canyon Foundation is a nonprofit established in 1989 that is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing the South Coast Wilderness, a 22,000-acre network of Open Space surrounding Laguna Beach in Orange County, California.

Originally founded to facilitate the transfer of land from private to public ownership so that its open space values could be protected in perpetuity, Laguna Canyon Foundation had evolved from a land acquisition organization to also engaging in education, public programming, assisting the Parks with trail maintenance, and conducting habitat restoration projects in and around the South Coast Wilderness.

To apply, send resume and cover letter to paula@lagunacanyon.org. Applications will be processed on a rolling basis.

Interested in working for Laguna Canyon Foundation? Apply today to become a Restoration Technician and join our team!

Founded in 1990, Laguna Canyon Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the South Coast Wilderness, a 22,000-acre network of open space surrounding Laguna Beach in Orange County, California.

We acquire open space to add to the parks system, offer educational programs for school children and free programs for the general public, design and rehabilitate trails, and restore habitat throughout the South Coast Wilderness.

The Restoration Program is currently engaged in over a dozen different projects, ranging from habitat mitigation to weed management to rare plant protection to fuel modification.

Position Summary:

The Restoration Technician will work closely with both the Restoration Director and Restoration Coordinator, other Laguna Canyon Foundation staff, landowners and partners to implement both small scale and landscape level habitat restoration projects.

This position performs duties including but not limited to: native plant seed collection, native plant propagation and installation, irrigation installation and maintenance, qualitative and quantitative monitoring of restoration sites, mechanical and chemical weed control, and GIS mapping. This position is primarily field based and requires extensive physical labor in adverse conditions and difficult terrain, including but not limited to working with herbicide, hand weeding, digging, bending, kneeling, and hauling heavy, awkward materials and equipment.  The ideal candidate will have experience working on habitat restoration projects, be a strong problem solver who is comfortable using an adaptive work management style, have a proven track record working both independently and as a team member, and be dependable and self-motivated with a positive attitude. 

Responsibilities:

  • Conduct field work in support of new and ongoing habitat restoration projects, including:
    • Obtaining, propagating and installing plant propagules
    • Identifying and managing non-native plant populations through a combination of herbicide application, hand-pulling, mowing and mulching
    • Installing, monitoring and maintaining irrigation systems
    • Making monthly and quarterly site observations
    • Assisting with annual vegetation monitoring and photo documentation
    • Other tasks as assigned

Requirements:

  • One year experience in gardening, landscaping, plant nurseries or related field
  • Knowledge of or ability to learn and identify local native and non-native plants
  • Demonstrated ability to work effectively and efficiently, both independently and as a productive team member
  • Access to a reliable vehicle, valid driver’s license and required insurance coverage, and willingness to use vehicle for work purposes (mileage reimbursement available)
  • Ability and willingness to perform physically demanding labor in adverse weather conditions and difficult terrain
  • Excellent interpersonal communication skills, time management skills, and organizational abilities
  • Ability and willingness to work weekend and evening hours as necessary
  • Highly-motivated and a proven self-starter
  • Passion for Laguna Canyon Foundation’s mission

The ideal candidate may also have:

  • Experience with herbicide application in a restoration setting
  • Experience using handheld power tools (e.g., weed trimmers, brush cutters, chainsaws)
  • Experience in implementing habitat restoration projects
  • Experience leading field-based volunteer events

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 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.

Salary and Benefits:

  • This position will start at an hourly rate of $14-16 per hour depending on experience.
  • We are currently waiting on funding to come through for two large grants, which we expect to happen in the next 3 to 6 months. Until then, 40 hours per week are expected but not guaranteed. Once funding is in place we expect this to become a full-time position with benefits.
  • Some evenings and weekends are required.
  • There is potential for advancement as program grows.

To apply, send resume and cover letter to alan@lagunacanyon.org. Applications will be processed on a rolling basis and will close on August 31st.

That’s a wrap! Laguna Canyon Foundation has officially completed another successful season of work on the Parks trails!

Our trailwork is a true community effort. Volunteers, OC Parks staff and Laguna Canyon Foundation staff work side by side at both regularly-scheduled and quick-response trail events, preparing for and mitigating rainfall and fire damage and repairing and improving our trails so that they are fun and safe for all users and have minimal impacts on the adjacent habitats.

Check out what we accomplished this year:

Stats for this season:  
Number of Volunteer Events: 52
Total number of Event Hours: 187
Unique Volunteers Engaged: 78
Number of Trails Worked On: 15
Total Volunteer Hours: 686
Total Hours of Trail Work (incl. LCF staff): 1000+
And here are some highlights of our accomplishments:  
Drainage Features Constructed: 48
Drainage Features Maintained/Improved: 77
Turns Constructed: 3
Turns Maintained/Improved: 19
Tread Maintained/Improved (linear feet): 1600
Tread Armored (linear feet): 170
Naturalization (square feet): 5,075
Trail Cleared of Brush (linear feet): 21,500 (That’s over 4 miles!)


Considering some of the challenges we faced (including having several events cancelled due to rain), we did some amazing work! Of course, in addition to all of the great changes we made to the Parks’ trails, hopefully we also made some changes in the hearts and minds of everyone who participated in an event or used one of the trails that we improved. We hope that people gain a greater appreciation for—and a sense of stewardship for—the trails and the Parks themselves, that they find common ground with people from different user groups, and that they find a greater connection with “The Wild,” both out on the trails, and inside of themselves.

Thank you so much to all of our OC Parks Partners, our Donors and especially our incredible, amazing, hard-working Volunteers!  You are making a difference!

Like laundry, trail work is never done.  We will be continuing to work on the trails throughout the summer, mostly on Thursday mornings.  If you think you have what it takes to enjoy hard manual labor in the hot blazing sun (not to mention surviving it), email Alan to be added to the Summer Trail Crew email list.  We will start up our open-to-the-public events again in October, and they will be posted on our website under the “Get Involved” tab—or follow this link.