2019 Excellence in Volunteerism

Advocacy, outreach and conservation: these are the pillars of Laguna Canyon Foundation’s work, and we couldn’t do it without the dedication and commitment of our volunteers. Last fiscal year, our volunteers served more than 8,250 hours in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and throughout the South Coast Wilderness.

Volunteer work includes invasive plant removal, planting native plants, habitat restoration, trail maintenance, WAVing (serving as Wilderness Access Volunteers at trailheads and nature centers), servicing wildlife cameras, leading guided hikes and mountain bike rides, tending to our native plant nursery, and patrolling the backcountry to support OC Parks Rangers.

Each year, along with OC Parks and fellow volunteers, we honor our own. We’d like to share with you this year’s nominees for Excellence in Volunteerism. Thank you to all our volunteers. Together, we can protect our beautiful wilderness.

John Foley

John Foley Bobcat
John Foley photographing a bobcat

John Foley has worked 950 hours in the three years he has volunteered for Laguna Canyon Foundation, serving in Laguna Coast and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks and for the Wildlife Corridor Project.

John spent many hours walking the culverts between the South Coast Wilderness and the new FivePoint wildlife corridor, designed to connect our parks to the Santa Ana Mountains. John helped with cameras set up to monitor the wildlife’s use of the culverts and the spaces between, which were often surrounded by industrial buildings.

John is a member of the Laguna Coast Wildlife camera team and helps monitor cameras that look at corridors within the park, which is divided in quarters by two major freeways. The cameras help us to observe the wildlife and judge the effectiveness of the wildlife corridors in the park.

Education, John knows, is also a key to protecting our wilderness parks, and he spends many hours leading hikes in Aliso and Woods and Laguna Coast. John’s education and outreach efforts are enhanced by his wonderful photography, which he shares generously. Through the Discovery Hikes, he has met Stu News staffers and has frequently helped them with their photo needs, including local wildlife photos of deer, bobcats and red-tailed hawks.

Stewardship projects are an important element of protecting the wilderness. John helps with restoration projects that are making big differences for our wildlife. He is a member of the Invasive Plant Patrol and surveys the park for new invasive species.

John is dedicated to protecting the South Coast Wilderness through research, restoration, and public education. We thank him for his good-natured, friendly, and important contributions.

Karin and Andre Lotz*

Karin and Andre Lotz
Karin and Andre Lotz

Since 2010, Volunteers Karin and Andre Lotz have been amazing ambassadors for OC Parks, Laguna Canyon Foundation and the mountain biking community. Avid and skilled mountain bikers, the Lotzes have travelled the world, riding thousands of miles across challenging and breathtaking landscapes. Back in So Cal, they have always found the time to do backcountry patrol for the parks and lead monthly Intro and Intermediate Mountain Biking Rides. The Lotzes bring their depth of knowledge and skill to share with participating riders. They patiently explain to each new rider techniques for better and safer riding, from how to position one’s body weight to appropriate seat height.

Intimately aware of the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park trails, the Lotzes help riders sail through creeks, gear down for steep climbs, and brake appropriately, even under challenging and unexpected circumstances. As they ride with the group, the Lotzes greet hikers, other riders and photographers along the way. Fellow volunteers look up to the Lotzes as the de facto leaders.

In a time when trail use is at an all-time high, it is good to have the Lotzes share their love and knowledge of the trails with all trail users. It is a pleasure working with them and learning from them.

Sue Miller*

Sue MillerSue Miller is a mainstay at the Nix Nature Center at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Over a period of nine years, she has worked more than 900 hours – two or more times per month, staffing the front desk and assisting with many different projects. She shares her humor, compassion, and experience with the visitors who come in looking for advice.

Sue is always friendly and willing to lend a hand to help visitors find the right hike…or even a place to eat dinner. She is an expert concierge.

Sue makes herself available to fill in when we need an extra hand at the nature center. And she always makes sure things around the center are clean and the exhibits are working and in good shape.

There are many jobs that need to be done – and Sue Miller is more than willing to take on all of the tasks. She helps families with scavenger hunts…or edits event lists and other publications. She has a good eye for judging whether programs or activities will work with the public – and her advice is excellent.

Sue assists during special events at the Nix Nature Center. She knows the activities and orients visitors with kindness and enthusiasm. Sue has helped with many of our larger “Weekends at the Nix” events, from Astronomy to Amazing Raptors. She enjoys sharing her interests in nature with park visitors.

Sue has become one of the important faces of the Nix Nature Center. We thank Sue for her dedication to providing our park visitors with the best experience ever, and in that way, contributing to the preservation of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.


Diane Walters*

Diane Walters at Keep it Wild!

In her two years volunteering at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Diane Walters has spent 400 hours making a tremendous contribution to restoration efforts in both parks.

Our parks are small, and the only way to support more wildlife is to reclaim the land that has been occupied by weeds. In this way, we provide more food for the animals, from deer to butterflies. Diane has worked tirelessly at Aliso and Wood Canyons, helping install thousands of native plants in the 26-acre Pecten Reef Habitat Restoration Project, one of the most sensitive and important areas in the Aliso Creek Watershed.

Diane also works on restoration projects in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. She has collected and sorted acorns to grow into oaks for restoration of park canyons.

The growing of oaks from acorns and other native plants from seeds is made possible through the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Native Plant Nursery. This nursery takes an enormous amount of TLC, and we are lucky to have someone as dedicated and hardworking as Diane devote herself to the nursery. Last year, the nursery produced hundreds of plants for the two major restoration projects at Laguna Coast.

Diane helps with public days in the nursery, helping new volunteers understand the importance of restoration in the park – and the beauty of our native plants. Diane is enthusiastic, energetic, and a good teacher. She knows that we will need all of these volunteers as advocates for wildlands and wildlife.

Diane has attended Emergent Weeds Training and is part of the Invasive Plant Patrol. If we can control and eliminate the invasive weeds, we can save ourselves so much work in the future!

Diane has also volunteered to help with special events. She designed an exhibit for Astronomy Night and shared it with the Nix Nature Center participants.

*Excerpts taken from OC Parks Resource Specialist Laura Cohen’s nominations.