The canyons surrounding Laguna Beach have captured the inspiration of both artists and nature lovers throughout history. Those of us lucky enough to call this special place home appreciate the canyons’ natural beauty, environmental benefits, and diverse recreational opportunities. But most visitors are unaware of how valuable the ecosystem is that sits in their own backyard. The trees, shrubs and wildflowers that we admire are home to countless species of wildlife such as the bobcat and great horned owl. The coastal sage scrub habitat that makes up much of the canyon ecosystem is some of the last of its kind and one of thirty-five globally recognized biodiversity hotspots in the world!

Native habitat supports a diverse population of plants and wildlife, while a habitat dominated by non-native plants does not make a good home. Take a moment to imagine a hillside of non-native mustard versus a hillside full of native plants like sagebrush, buckwheat, and lemonadeberry. While wildlife can use mustard for food and shelter, most species greatly prefer the native hillside, with a variety of insect hosts, different seed types, and a varied flower blooming schedule.

Our mission at Laguna Canyon Foundation is to protect, preserve, enhance and promote the South Coast Wilderness. A great way to do all these things is to participate in volunteer stewardship. Stewardship in this sense means taking responsibility for the care and management of the land. This may take many forms, including removing non-native plants from sensitive native habitats, adding native plants in degraded areas to restore them to their historic condition, or educating the public about the beauty, ecology and threats to our wildlands. All these activities can greatly impact the native habitats that are found in the open space, and help the unique, threatened, and endangered species that make the South Coast Wilderness such an important place to preserve and protect.

Laguna Canyon Foundation offers multiple volunteer opportunities each month for people of all ages to participate in events that help to protect and restore the open space that we all love so much. Rather than simply observing the natural world, or seeing landscapes through the window of a car, you and your friends and family can directly impact the fragile ecosystem that sits in your backyard.

Participants will follow the life cycle of a plant, from collecting and planting seeds, to caring for the young nursery plants, to planting them at our restoration project site. Once the plants are in the ground, volunteers will have the opportunity to continue tending them during our monthly restoration events. You will learn about native plants, habitat restoration, and the importance of conserving our wildlands, while contributing in a tangible, hands-on way to making the parks a better place for wildlife.

There are no requirements or special skills needed to be a steward except the motivation to show up and participate. So, what are you waiting for? Come join the fun and learn more about stewardship with LCF! Bring your friends, bring your family and come help keep it wild! Wednesdays and Saturdays from October 2018 to June 2019. For more information and to sign up, click here.

This week, we’re excited to share a special guest blog from volunteer John Foley. Thanks, John!

Growing up in Los Angeles, it was a trek for me to get to the wilderness. Sure, we had beaches, but there was always something that drew me to the open spaces. Now, in Orange County, my family and I have the privilege of living on the edge of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park with a beautiful view of the coastal sage scrub habitat. After years in the corporate world, I have more time to spend on the trails. I volunteer to lead hikes, restore habitat, pull invasive plants, pick up trash, and work with OC Parks on wildlife monitoring. These activities have afforded me opportunities to capture some amazing photos of native flora and fauna. Photographing the wilderness has been wonderful avenue for me to show my deep respect for this nature preserve.

Creatures big and small have certainly piqued my interest, and so I took Dick Newell’s OC Trackers course to better understand how this delicate ecosystem sustains the native wildlife. While sometimes on hikes or restoration outings I may not see any wildlife, I have learned to spot evidence of their presence. Whether a coyote’s tracks, a gopher’s mound, a scrub jay’s rustling, or a mule deer’s nibble marks on mulefat, these signs remind me that I am a visitor in their home, their habitat. So I take nothing, not a flower, not a rock, not a feather, but I do take trash…oh, and I take pictures, lots of pictures.

And I leave nothing but my footprints.

Earth Day was extra special this year in Laguna Beach! Laguna Canyon Foundation and Orange County Parks celebrated the 25th anniversary of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park on Sunday, April 22nd. LCF and OC Parks volunteers greeted park visitors with information and gifts at the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park entrances.

Can you picture the 133 lined with 3,204 housing units, golf courses, a fire station, commercial shopping centers, and a school? Coastal sage scrub? Gone. Trails? Gone. Unobstructed canyon views? Gone. That’s what Laguna Coast Wilderness Park would have been if the city of Laguna Beach and its environmental community hadn’t come together and saved the land we all know and love from the planned Laguna Laurel development.

In 1989, 8,000 people participated in the “March to Save Laguna Canyon,” protesting the Irvine Company’s impending development of Laguna Canyon. This led to a 1990 historic purchase agreement between the Irvine Company, the City of Laguna Beach, the County of Orange, and local environmental organizations. That year, in order to kick off the land purchase, Laguna Beach residents voted in favor of a $20 million bond measure, taxing themselves to pay for the purchase of the land. It was then that Laguna Canyon Foundation was born – a nonprofit whose original purpose was to promote awareness, secure funding for land purchases, establish the wilderness parks, and make sure the land would be protected in perpetuity.

Fast forward 25 years: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is part of the 22,000 acres of the coastal canyon parks that surround Laguna Beach. So next time you drive down the 133, make sure to breathe in that coastal sage scrub and say a little thank you for our wildlands!

We live in such a special – and important – place. The South Coast Wilderness is a unique area that is included in the California Floristic Province, which is designated as a global biodiversity hotspot. To qualify as a global biodiversity hotspot, an area must have at least 1,500 endemic species (species found nowhere else on the planet), and have lost at least 70% of its native vegetation.

Our mission at Laguna Canyon Foundation is to protect, preserve, enhance and promote the South Coast Wilderness. A great way to do all of these things is to participate in stewardship activities. Stewardship in this sense means taking responsibility for the care and management of the land. This may take many forms, including removing invasive species from sensitive native habitats, adding native plants in degraded areas to restore them to their historic condition, or educating the general public about the beauty, ecology and threats to our wild lands. All of these activities can greatly impact the native habitats that are found in the open space, and help the unique, threatened, and endangered species that make the South Coast Wilderness such an important place to preserve and protect.

An undisturbed native habitat supports a diverse population of plants and wildlife, while a disturbed habitat does not make a good home.Take a moment to imagine a hillside of mustard versus a hillside full of native plants like sagebrush (Artemisia californica), buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia). While wildlife can use mustard for food and shelter, most species greatly prefer the native hillside, with a variety of insect hosts, different seed types, and a varied blooming schedule.

There are no requirements or special skills needed to be a steward except the motivation to show up and participate. So, what are you waiting for? Come join the fun and learn more about stewardship with LCF! Sign up for a volunteer day on our Eventbrite page, and find out for yourself what it’s all about.

Upcoming LCF stewardship events:
 
• Sat 2/25 Nursery and Plant Care at Willow – Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
• Tues 2/28 LCF Restoration Stewardship Day – Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
• Sat 3/18 Keep it Wild Volunteer Day – Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

 

Interested in learning more about habitat restoration and stewardship? Sign up for our monthly Restoration Team Newsletter using the form below!

 

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Last month, Laguna Canyon Foundation was awarded a $5,000 grant for the South Coast Wilderness Education Program from the Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund! Disneyland Resort’s Director of Workforce Management and long-time LCF volunteer Arland Van Horn presented the check to LCF’s Board.

The Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund program offers a means to give Disney Cast Members (employees) direct involvement in the distribution of charitable funds that they personally contribute. Ms. Van Horn explains, “Each participating Cast Member contributes what they can through direct payroll deductions.  A Leadership Counsel of Cast Members reviewed a large number of grant applications and awarded Laguna Canyon Foundation $5,000. It makes me proud to be a part of both organizations.”

The VoluntEARS Community Fund grant is invitation-only; only organizations nominated by a Disneyland Resort Cast Member personally affiliated with the organization are eligible to apply.

“We are thrilled, and so grateful for Arland’s vote of confidence,” said Hallie Jones, LCF’s Executive Director. “Our education program inspires environmental advocacy and love for the wilderness in the next generation, and Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund’s support will help make that possible.”

Each year, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education program brings more than 4,500 second through fifth grade students from Orange County Title 1 schools for free field trips into our open space. Our hands-on, standards-based program allows children to hike, explore native plants, see wildlife, and learn about conservation and preservation. Each field trip supports the Next Generation State Science Standards, and focuses on grade-specific topics, including art in nature, adaptations, geology, fitness and nutrition.

Thank you Arland, Disney VoluntEARS, and all of our fantastic supporters and volunteers!

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.

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!

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!

Last Thursday, our volunteers were honored at OneOC’s “Spirit of Volunteerism” awards. Our entire volunteer team – over 100 regular, long-term volunteers! – were nominated by OC Parks staff at Aliso and Wood Canyons and Laguna Coast Wilderness Parks. Volunteer Susan Munson represented our volunteers at the dinner and awards ceremony, joined by Barbara Norton, Supervising Park Ranger for Laguna Coast Wilderness Park; LCF Executive Director Hallie Jones; and OC Parks Resource Specialist Rick Schaffer.

As the nomination explains,

“The volunteers of Laguna Canyon Foundation (LCF) have worked for years to save and protect the open space in and around Laguna Canyon. In 2015 alone, 135 volunteers provided 6,331 hours of service in support of OC Parks’ Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. LCF volunteers serve the parks in a variety of ways: greeting park visitors and assisting with trail directions to ensure visitors have a safe and enjoyable time in the park; maintaining the trails and ensuring they are safe for hikers, bikers, and equestrians; designing and conducting interpretive programs for the general public as well as school groups that come to the park on field trips; leading restoration activities that help restore old ranch lands back to their native habitat; and performing Citizen Science projects, such as servicing wildlife monitoring cameras to help OC Parks monitor the wildlife that inhabit the parks. The staff at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park are amazed by -and grateful for – the dedication and exceptional service provided by Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteers.”

“We’re so lucky to have such wonderful volunteers,” Jones said. “What a lovely way to honor their commitment. We couldn’t do what we do without them!”

Thank you to OC Parks staff for the nomination – and thank you again and again to our volunteers, who give back to LCF and to the community every day, and make what we do possible!

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.