Reflections on the 21/22 Trail Season

The 21/22 Trail Season represents a return to form for LCF’s Trails Program. Between October 2021 and June 2022, the Trails Program maintained 7.5 miles of trail, a third of the total mileage of singletrack in Aliso and Wood Canyons and Laguna Coast Wilderness Parks. We hosted 32 trail events, totaling nearly 1,200 work hours. These figures approach pre-COVID levels, both in terms of work completed and volunteer engagement. They also bring the program’s lifetime total to 288 events and 5,680 volunteer hours since its inception in 2014. However, this does not tell the whole on-the-ground-story of our work. Therefore, it is worth highlighting some of this past season’s projects.

California Conservation Corps improving Lizard Trail

The improvement to Lizard Trail was the most technical project of the season. Continuing the work that began in summer 2021, OC Parks approached LCF this past February to lead a 12-person crew of California Conservation Corps to address trail widening and habitat encroachment. Soil surrounding rock armoring eroded away leaving its comprising stones to jut out in the flow of traffic. To avoid these obstacles users created alternate routes, forming a 3,000 square-foot jumble of intertwining paths. Over the course of eight days LCF led the restoration of 2,700 square feet of disturbed land and created a new, safer, and more sustainable alignment.

In May, LCF began a wonderful collaboration with California State Parks and the County of Orange in decommissioning an unauthorized trail running from Crystal Cove State Park to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. This marks the first time LCF has worked with State Parks. The removal of this newly formed trail is especially crucial as it threatens sensitive plant species such as San Diego Tarweed (Deinandra paniculata). It also fragments the habitat that supports the California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), a federally listed endangered species. As a first step, LCF and State Parks jointly hosted a Trail Stewardship Day to address the issue. LCF continues to collaborate with the State and County in decommissioning this and other newly formed unauthorized trails.

Volunteers posing in front of recently installed lodgepole

To cap off the season, LCF led eight volunteers in installing over 100 feet of lodgepole fencing on Meadows Trail in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. The fencing’s purpose is to prevent switchback cutting. Work on this project initiated in 2018 but was paused due to the pandemic. Thanks to a donation from Troy Lee Designs, work reignited this season. LCF led two Trail Stewardship Days focused on installing fence and naturalizing disturbed areas. LCF will continue this project in the upcoming Trail Season with the hope of completing the remaining 240 feet of fencing by June 2023.

While acknowledging these successes, we believe that we can surpass our achievements in the upcoming season. Starting in October the program will schedule seven trail events monthly: three public, two corporate, and two exclusively for long-term volunteers. Due to the addition of new staff and departmental restructuring, the Trails Program faces the upcoming season with added vigor and increased capacity. It is all hands-on deck for the 22/23 Trail Season ensuring it is a major success!

LCF is investing in the long-term sustainability of the program.  We recently hired Derek Breaux as Outreach Director. He will be collaborating with the Trails Program in fortifying its long-term volunteer program and in designing a holistic marketing campaign for the entire organization.

The Trails Program has made huge strides, but more work lies ahead. The forecast is bright, but our work is only possible if concerned citizens take the action to support the program with their labor and donations. With your help we can continue our work.