It seems only yesterday that our staff at Laguna Canyon Foundation was just settling into our new headquarters. We hadn’t yet finalized our landscape plan or hung much art on the walls, but we were in! One of our first priorities was to host an Open House for our wonderful volunteers, neighbors and supporters to share our work in progress with them. Other top priorities included setting up weekly yoga for staff in our “rampitheatre,” creating a gratitude wall, finding a place for our muddy boots, and making sure a dog-friendly program was in place.
Then, COVID-19 hit. Now, we strategize together via Zoom while getting to know each other’s cats in video calls. We chat in Teams and collaborate on projects via OneDrive. We also worry. We’re thinking of our friends and our families and about the impacts to the economy, and how that will change the future of the foundation.
More than anything, we miss spending time with our volunteers and students, we miss our colleagues, and we sure miss being outside in our wilderness.
But I’ve noticed something interesting. What keeps us physically apart is also bringing us together in a very heartfelt way. I would add this to our gratitude wall, if I could.
We at Laguna Canyon Foundation support our community leaders and our partners at OC Parks. Laguna Beach has closed our beaches and parks—the signs are clearly posted. You can listen to Mayor Bob Whalen’s podcast on the topic here. As of March 23, 2020, to insure proper social distancing, OC Parks closures include, but are not limited to, parking lots, playgrounds, trailheads, and campsites. Read more here. Schools, of course, are closed.
All public activities in the wilderness parks are cancelled. This includes volunteer-led hikes and rides, trail and restoration volunteer events, our junior high-school watershed field trip programs with OC Coastkeepers, and our South Coast Wilderness Education Program which brings up to 4,500 students from Title I elementary schools into the wilderness each year.
But just because we can’t be together doesn’t mean that we’re alone, or that we’ve lost our passion for what we do. Laguna Canyon Foundation employees continue our important work of advocacy, outreach and conservation, albeit remotely. Carefully scheduled individual restoration staff tend to select habitat sites. Our fuel modification projects with the city continue to progress. Grant reports and requests are still being written; our day-to-day operations are continuing. Daily, we reach out to our communities, and we’re currently developing educational and interpretive materials for both digital use and future volunteering events.
We’re in this work for the long haul. After all, it was thirty years ago that we were formed to preserve and protect this precious open space. And we still are relying on our community: donors and supporters like you who themselves are likely scared and hurting.
There’s some beauty in this stillness. While we hold our collective breath, concerned for those of us who are most vulnerable, the earth itself is healing. Pollution is down. Wildlife is more active. As for me, I am more aware of the birds I hear singing from my home office and the precious extra time I have with my family.
We’ll emerge from this into a different world, a better world. One in which we have more stillness in our days, more concern for our neighbors, and more gratitude for the beautiful things we hold dear.
As you consider our community, please remember our open space. Join us on Instagram and social media. Check out our stories on our website. Donate if you can.
Support the guidelines of the cities, schools and parks, and above all, love the special people in your life.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands. I’ll see you on the trails again soon.
Feature photo: Laguna Canyon Foundation Headquarter’s Wildflower Meadow, tended by the Restoration Staff