As our fiscal year comes to a close (that’s right, the year ends on June 30th in the nonprofit world!) we’d like to share some of the statistics on our programs. We’ve been working hard all year to preserve, protect, enhance and promote the South Coast Wilderness – and sometimes it seems like we’ve been working just as hard just to keep track of what we’ve done! We’d like to offer a big thank you to our supporters, board, staff (including our fantastic seasonal Field Instructors and Restoration Technicians), and especially our volunteers. The numbers speak for themselves – we couldn’t accomplish a fraction of what we do without such fantastic volunteer support.

For fiscal year 2018-2019, the numbers are:

Trail Stewardship:

  • 48 volunteer events offered
    • 17 weekend events
  • 162 unique volunteers
    • Average number of volunteers per event (all events): 6
    • Average number of volunteers per weekend event: 12
  • 1,038 volunteer hours logged
  • 1,511 total hours of trail work
  • 335 bags of dirt harvested
  • 178 new drainage features
  • 676 drainage features maintained and/or improved
  • 854 total drainage features
  • 4 new insloped turns
  • 25 turns improved
  • 2,020 linear feet of tread improvements
  • 37,700 feet of trail brushed
  • 11,000 square feet of naturalization
  • 1,600 square feet seeded
  • 5,000 lbs of materials (including water) transported
  • 48 linear feet of lodgepole fencing installed
  • 1 equestrian-rated puncheon constructed

Volunteer Program (overall):

  • 8,269 volunteer hours in Laguna Coast and Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks
    • 2,034 short term volunteer hours
    • 6,235 long term volunteer hours
  • 189 events offered
  • 1,517 participants, including
    • 810 public participants
    • 707 short term volunteers
    • Average 8 people per event

Education Program:

    • Maintained 12 partner schools, added 3 new schools
    • Offered 60 school trips, hosting
      • 3,396 students
      • 107 teachers
      • 228 parents
    • Maintained a great staff of 6 part-time field instructors

Restoration Stewardship Program:

    • 48 events offered
      • 28 Keep it Wild
      • 6 Native Plant Nursery
      • 9 Invasive Plant Patrol
      • 5 Corporate and School Events
    • 286 Public Participants
    • 66 LCF Volunteers
    • 1154 total man hours
    • 1070 plants installed

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and already planning and preparing for the year ahead! Interested in learning more about our work? Click the links to find out more about our trail stewardship, volunteer, education, and restoration programs!

How do you measure success? Boy, that question can get irksome.

Often we measure success only by what we are able to measure, but that, by definition, can be limiting. Think of the NBA finals: Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors sixth and final game. Final score: Raptors 114; Warriors 110. Boom! Raptors are champions. Clear cut; awesome, end of story. Maybe. But what about the games – up and down the court, trading leads. Wow! And the players’ personal stories of injuries, comebacks and the heart and soul they all left on the court; the fans standing in the rain; the coaches’ leadership; the two national anthems – that is what makes the sport so compelling.

Stats are important, for sure. They decide who wins championships. They reveal just how far an organization has come. As Laguna Canyon Foundation closes its seasonal and fiscal year this month, we’ll be sharing some milestones that truly make us proud, milestones that preserve and protect our wilderness and that our volunteers and supporters help make possible.

This past trail stewardship season, I had the pleasure of attending most of our events. While I am so proud of the work we accomplished, what I will remember most are the people, our volunteers. The staff at Laguna Canyon Foundation has made friends: friends who worked side-by-side with us as we improved a berm, obliterated a social trail, re-seeded impacted areas, and cleared massive overgrowth that had made hiking and riding almost impossible. Our volunteers were thoughtful, supportive and eager to learn. And we all learned from each other.

As we pursued particularly difficult areas of a trail, we had group discussions about the best ways to support our ultimate goal: keep users ON the trails and water OFF. Led by our Restoration Program Director, Alan Kaufmann, we considered brake bumps, sight lines, and where hikers and bikers would likely go. We agreed on a strategy and built our drains, brushed our trails and mitigated erosion.

The hard work was fun and lively as the conversations shifted to college days, an upcoming wedding, or a recent camping trip. We had mountain bike volunteers – McLeods and shovels in hand – ribbing bikers as they rode by to come join us and help improve the trails. We had a father and son team come back time and time again, working four hours and THEN taking a ride. One of our volunteers celebrated a milestone birthday – the big 4-0 – and volunteered on his birthday! A girlfriend of a volunteer came and enjoyed her time so much, she chastised her boyfriend for implying that trail work was just a “guy thing” (she has since become a regular). We had a long-term high school volunteer spread the word and bring countless school buddies who needed to fulfill “mandatory volunteer hours.” (How’s that for an oxymoron?) We had a trail runner who was, in no way, a parasite (see Outside’s controversial article) sweat through four hours of humidity, happily and beautifully brushing a seriously overgrown trail. We had student nurses, also mothers with full-time jobs, find the time to commit a morning to helping on the trails. Corporate groups came out eager to work on the trail each of them frequently used. Recently, one of our long-term volunteers went to a different trailhead, missing the truck ride in, and so, not to be discouraged, ran four miles in to meet us and begin her trail work. Another regular got his certification to become a long-term OC Parks volunteer, completing his orientation, training, and CPR/First Aid requirements.

This past season, hikers, bikers, photographers, runners, naturalists, and first-time trail folks effectively worked together to protect our beautiful wilderness. We will share our awesome year-end stats soon. Getting to know all of them, hearing their stories, learning about their love for the open space has been an unmeasurable privilege and I am so grateful that many of them have signed up to become certified long-term volunteers – upping their commitment to protect what we love.

As we take a hiatus for the hot summer months, I will miss my new friends, but I look forward to seeing them again in the fall.

After four hours on the Dilley trails carrying shovels and tools to do trail maintenance with volunteers and colleagues, I am back home in my favorite chair, a little sweaty, smelling like sage, with my two dogs sleeping beside me. It is a good day.

I love the Dilley trails: Canyon, Blackjack, Mariposa, and Sunflower. Well, really, I haven’t found a trail I don’t like, and I know I’m not alone. Whether we hike, bike, run, photograph, paint or bird watch, the South Coast Wilderness and its 70 miles of trails, to quote Edward Abbey, “feed our souls.”

Throughout Aliso and Wood Canyons and Laguna Coast Wilderness Parks, I hike the trails with our volunteers who lead guided hikes; I hike the trails with elementary school children to develop our next generation of environmentalists; I hike the trails with my family. I pick up trash, respect the animals’ right of way in their own habitat, let the rangers know if I see something suspicious, and teach our visitors about the importance of good stewardship.

One wilderness duty that hadn’t cross my mind to do was participate in a trail maintenance event. Being of a certain age, with four knee surgeries under my belt, I just didn’t think I could handle four hours of wheelbarrowing stuff from here to there, carrying heavy tools, or otherwise keeping up with a far more able group of folks.

But I gave it a go today, and boy, I’m glad I did. Not only was it fun hard work, I learned a lot and got to hang out with cool people. Even more so, we worked on trails that I am deeply familiar with — trails where I can point out a specific wood rat nest, a good gall place, or where to see one of the best views ever.

My fellow field instructors and I take fifth graders on Dilley trails throughout the school year, trails that may, from time to time, have some challenging footing. So it was with a great sense of contribution today that I learned how to build and maintain trail drainage. As the trail experts say, “We like to keep the users on the trails and the water off.” There was plenty of work I was capable of doing, from shoveling debris out of the dirt drains to building a rock gargoyle that better defined the trail.

Trail stewardship is rewarding and hard work. It is hiking, with many stops. It is not stops to mediate, as with the Yoga Hike, or stops with the fifth graders to learn about a prickly pear cactus, but a stop to maintain a small and very important part of the trail that helps both the trail users and the inhabitants of the wilderness. Surprisingly to me, it is a very intimate experience with nature to thoughtfully tend to a little area of need. It truly refreshed my soul.

Restoration Program Director Alan Kaufmann, who heads the trail stewardship efforts, is always happy to see new volunteers at the events. “The trails are used by a wide variety of people, and, of course, for a variety of activities. We welcome everyone to these trail events. There’s always something folks at every level can do, from brushing to moving rocks.” And, Alan quips, “Sometimes, volunteers might just lean on their shovels to watch and learn; that’s perfectly acceptable, too.”

Now, as if I didn’t have enough reasons to get out on the trails, I have one more: to maintain our beloved trails for our enjoyment and for the plants and animals that live in this very special place. Another way to #KeepItWild.

To sign up for a Trail Stewardship event and help maintain our trails, visit www.lagunacanyon.org/volunteer.

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.

Laguna Ridge Trail, also known as T&A, started out life as a ranch road. For many years, this trail was a favorite of the small cadre of Laguna Beach mountain bikers, and despite its steep, fall-line alignment, it stayed a stable, narrow singletrack for over a decade through the 1980s and early 1990s.

Starting with the wildfires in 1993 and culminating with the El Nino rains in 2010, a series of natural events and a dramatic increase in users began causing erosion problems along the trail. For those of you who have been riding since then, you’ve seen the trail change from a primitive, narrow singletrack to a 40-foot-wide rock-choked gully. For years up until the present day, these sections continued to widen as most trail users avoided the jumbled centerline and stayed on the margins, damaging the fragile native vegetation and further eroding the trailbed. If nothing was done, this damage would have continued to degrade both the trail itself and the surrounding habitat, possibly resulting in a complete closure of the entire trail.

OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation, working together to assess trails in the wilderness parks, identified Laguna Ridge as a top priority, and concluded that the first step in saving this trail would be to reroute the top section off of the fall-line to create a longer and more gradual grade. This would render the trail more sustainable and have the added benefit of being rideable uphill as well as down. LCF Staff worked closely with OC Parks in 2014 to design a reroute that would strike a balance between protecting the surrounding sensitive habitat and maximizing the user experience and long-term trail sustainability.

LCF volunteer crews and staff worked tirelessly through the 2015-2016 season to build the 0.3-mile reroute, only to have a wildfire burn through the area in June 2016, resulting in the closure of the trail. We stabilized the new alignment by installing erosion control measures and placing brush to prevent users from shortcutting through the burned areas. Once this work was accomplished, the trail was reopened in October 2016.

Last month (January 2017), OC Parks brought in a contractor to begin the decommissioning of the original trail alignment. The contractor used heavy equipment to break up the compacted trailbed, recontour the channelized slopes, and divert water from the old alignment to prevent further erosion. While using a backhoe to tear up a rocky slope in a wilderness park may seem extreme, it is the only practical way of addressing the scale of the damage that has been caused to this area over the life of this trail.

LCF will soon begin work with the Orange County Conservation Corps to plant and seed this area with native plants in order to restore the impacted area to healthy native habitat as required by OC Parks’ conservation mandate. We will also be working in the burned area to help protect it as it heals from the fire. We will continue to work with our dedicated trail volunteers and OC Parks to improve and maintain this trail and the rest of our trail system so that it can withstand the increasingly heavy use it receives while minimizing impacts to the surrounding habitat.

There is a lot of work to do, and we always welcome your involvement. Join us one of our upcoming trail volunteer days by emailing us at alan@lagunacanyon.org.

 

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
www.lagunabeachdogpark.com
20612 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach
949-497-0706

A Place for Paws
Ridge Route Drive and Peralta Drive
Laguna Woods
949-639-0500

Costa Mesa Bark Park
www.costamesabarkpark.com
890 Arlington Drive
Costa Mesa
949-733-4101

Laguna Niguel Pooch Park
www.cityoflagunaniguel.org
31461 Golden Lantern
Laguna Niguel
949-362-4300

San Clemente Dog Park
www.san-clemente.org
301 Avenida La Pata
San Clemente
949-361-8264

Thank you for your help in protecting our parks!

This year’s trail season is over, and the numbers are in – we had an amazing season!  A BIG thank you to all those who came out for volunteer days, helped to spread the word, and/or supported this program in other ways, including our TrailMix sponsors! We couldn’t do it without all of you.

Some highlights of this season included:

  • Clearing brush along the lower 2 miles of the Emerald Canyon Trail
  • Completing the reclamation of two unauthorized trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
  • Continuing work on the Five Oaks trail at Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, including realigning some turns and building a retaining wall under one of the namesake oaks
  • Overhauling the top of Mentally Sensitive
  • Dramatically improving the drainage on Stairsteps and Old Emerald Canyon Trail
  • Completing the 0.16 mile reroute at the top of Laguna Ridge Trail

Here are the stats for this season’s accomplishments:

Number of Volunteer Events: 58 Over twice last season’s total!
Total number of Event Hours: 200 Over twice last season’s total!
Unique Volunteers: 171 Over FOUR TIMES last season’s total!
Number of Trails Worked On: 13
Total Volunteer Hours: 1201 Over twice last season’s total!
Total Hours of Trail Work (including LCF staff) 1700 Over twice last season’s total!
 Decompaction and Seeding, sqft 3000
Erosion Control Wattles Installed, linear ft 200
Naturalization, sqft 2000
Plants planted/transplanted 130
Erosion Control Features (Dips & Drains): 85 Over FOUR TIMES last season’s total!
Insloped Turns 12 Over twice last season’s total!
Switchbacks 2
Retaining Wall, block, sq ft 16
Retaining Wall, rammed earth, sq ft 150
Retaining Wall, rock, sqft 30
Retaining Wall, total, sqft 196
Tread Armored, block, linear ft 90
Tread repaired, linear ft 250
Tread, New, Constructed, linear ft 1700

In short, we crushed it!

1,200 hours of volunteer work—according to how the federal government values volunteer work, that’s a value of over $30,000! Of course, you can’t really put a dollar amount on the true value of the work we have done, when you consider the values to the trail users’ experiences, to the plants and animals whose habitat has been protected, and to the relationships that have been built.

Interested in joining us for trail season in the fall? Email Alan to join our trail volunteer email list and get involved!

Laguna Canyon Foundation’s TrailMix has gotten off to a great start! Our website launched in March and provides in-depth information on what we do and how to get involved, our Facebook page offers regular updates straight from the field, and of course, staff and volunteers alike have been hard at work maintaining and improving our trails. We’re dedicated to preserving and enhancing our trails, and making them fun and accessible for everyone.

We couldn’t do any of this without our sponsors and partners! Our latest partner, Troy Lee Designs, has been a longtime supporter of the mountain bike community and is a Laguna local. Join us for the official TrailMix Launch Party next Saturday, June 4th, at Troy Lee Designs in downtown Laguna Beach. Enjoy food, drinks, live music, and a silent auction benefiting Laguna TrailMix!

Thank you to Troy Lee, to our sponsors, partners, and volunteers, and to everyone who loves and protects our trails!

Troy Lee Launch Party

This month’s Keep It Wild volunteer day, co-hosted by Laguna Canyon Foundation and OC Parks, must have broken a record for attendance with 62 volunteers participating! In fact, we had so many participants that we had to divide the event into two projects to maximize the effectiveness of our generous labor force.

One group of 23 volunteers helped break up and reseed an old, unauthorized trail in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. This was arduous, challenging work, but everyone rose to the occasion. All of the volunteers carried tools or 6-foot wattles up this steep canyon trail. One crew dug up 1300 feet of trail using only picks. Once the packed soil was loosened, other crews raked, seeded, and tamped the seeds into the soil. With a little rain, this old trail will transform into wildlife-friendly chaparral habitat.

Our other group of 38 volunteers worked on restoring part of large meadow in Laguna Canyon that has been heavily invaded by non-native grasses and other weeds. Volunteers removed weeds including mustard, hemlock, thistle, and cheeseweed. They also planted several oak trees. In the near future, we hope this weedy meadow will return to the mixture of oak woodland and coastal sage scrub habitat that existed there prior to disturbances such as cattle grazing.

This was a great demonstration of the positive collaboration between LCF and O.C. Parks. Altogether four OC Parks staff, three LCF staff, and four LCF volunteers helped to coordinate and manage these activities. We look forward to many more opportunities to work alongside community members in restoring our beautiful canyon habitats. Thank you to EVERYONE who came out and joined us!

Thanks to all of the volunteers who came out on November 21st to help us on the 5 Oaks Trail in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park!  We had a good-sized group due to the folks from 52 Hikes and Cal State Fullerton supplementing some of our usual suspects, and we got a lot of great work done, despite the very warm temperatures.

We focused on three main projects:

1) Saving Dirt: Our volunteers gathered and preserved over 70 bags of loose dirt that otherwise would have washed off the trail in the next rainstorm.  This dirt is a precious resource and will be used to reinforce the trail once the rains come.  It is dirty and unglamorous work, but so important!

5 Oak Trail

2) Trail narrowing: The trail bed was altered at the top of a steep turn in order to get water off of the trail bed and keep users on the best line.  This will improve the safety of this section of trail while also allowing us to revegetate a large, eroded, barren area on the inside of the turn.  Improving drainage here will also help arrest erosion occurring further down the trail.

5 Oak Trail

3) Saving the Oak: Right where the trail transitions from Coastal Sage Scrub into Oak Woodland is the first of the 5 Oaks Trail’s namesake trees.  Lines have developed on either side of this Oak, and downcutting due to water and user impacts are exposing its roots and threatening its survival.  In order to protect this tree, we began building a retaining wall.  When we complete this wall and backfill it with soil, the Oak’s roots will be protected from further erosion.  We installed the first two tiers of the wall and also redirected a small gully above that was dumping water into the trail, accelerating erosion.  We will continue working on this project on future volunteer days.

5 Oak Trail

All in all, it was an enjoyable and very productive day.  There is much more work to do on this and other trails in the Parks.  If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us at alan@lagunacanyon.org.