What Challenges Face Our Open Space?

We’re moving into a new year and welcoming the challenges and opportunities that 2021 brings. Of course, the coming availability of a COVID-19 vaccine remains first and foremost in our minds. With that vaccine will come increased opportunities for guided hikes, a return to the field trips we miss so much, and ample opportunity for more volunteering! Not to mention, we as LCF staff will be able to work together again, building on each other’s energy and enthusiasm to implement our mission with lots of laughter and fun.

In 2021, here are the challenges we believe our open space will be facing:

  • Increased use has led to increased user-conflicts on and impacts to the trails. It’s been crazy busy out in the parks. While the initial shutdown back in early 2020 led to quiet trails and increased wildlife movement and activity, we’re now seeing up to a threefold increase in park usership. Quite frankly, our parks are busting at the seams. There’s good in this, of course. People new to hiking and mountain biking will discover a passion for open space that helps us all. But increased traffic also breaks down our fragile trails, leading to erosion and trail widening. Not to mention the absolutely inexcusable garbage and dog poop left in our wilderness by a few uncaring park visitors. In 2021, look for greater dialogue on balancing recreation and wilderness, including potential options to limit impacts by making some trails one-directional or reserved for specific user groups.
  • Development pressure on the Canyon. The critical need for affordable housing impacts Laguna Beach and all of our surrounding cities. Keep an eye out for potential development projects within the City, and rest assured we’ll be working closely with the City to make sure any Canyon area projects are both environmentally responsible AND in line with the Canyon specific plan.
  • Focus on fire. The risk of wildfire is real, and prevalent. Our City will continue to focus on fire safety, leading the State in innovative ways to protect our critical habitat while also protecting us all from catastrophic wildfires. Specifically, we believe we will see increased engagement with homeowners to protect private property and structures, and the continued implementation of environmentally sensitive ways to reduce fire risk. As our climate changes, wildfire risk will increase, making this forward-thinking effort critical.

Our vision for 2021 is similar to the words of the great Peter Douglas of the California Coastal Commission, who died in 2012.

“You can’t take our relationship with the coast for granted, because it took a lot of sweat, blood and tears to preserve it so we have what we have today. These things didn’t just happen. The coast is what it is because a lot of people worked really hard and sacrificed to protect it. And if we want it to be there for our children, we have to keep fighting to protect it. In that way, the coast is never saved; it’s always being saved.”

Replace coast with Canyon, and you’ll see the monumental privilege and responsibility we have in the work we do every day.

Here’s to the next beautiful challenges and opportunities to make a difference!