Each year, Orange County Parks hosts a volunteer appreciation barbecue. Rangers and other OC Parks staff highlight selected volunteers who serve in their respective parks. Those personally recognized for their past year of service represent a much larger group of volunteers across OC Parks, dedicated to preserving and protecting our parks, beaches and other county treasures.
Laguna Canyon Foundation is the supporting agent for Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, and selected special project areas. While we welcome anyone at our one-day public volunteer events, we also offer volunteer certification for those wanting to volunteer on a more long-term basis. Certification requires attending orientation and interpretation training, passing a background check, obtaining CPR/First Aid certification, and spending time with a mentor to earn OC Parks’ Facilities Certification. Collectively, our certified, long-term volunteers served more than 7,000 hours last year alone.
Over the time of their service, a few volunteers become – literally – experts in their fields. After receiving their initial certification, they seek out additional specialized training as they find a niche that is both fulfilling to them and extraordinarily helpful to OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation.
Areas of specialization include:
Restoration and Stewardship
Each year, a group of tireless volunteers scour the parks for specific invasive plant species. In close coordination with OC Parks, over the course of a season, these volunteers may remove over 500 bags of plants that would otherwise hijack the resources that native flora and fauna need to thrive. In addition, you may see stationary restoration sites at Big Bend, Dilley Preserve, Pecten Reef, and Aliso & Wood Canyons Headquarters. Not only do our certified volunteers steward these areas, they are a great place for short-term volunteers to receive hands-on restoration experience.
Wildlife Camera Project
A band of trained volunteers work closely with OC Parks to manage wildlife cameras, scout for tracks and scat, and catalog photos. This is time-consuming but rewarding work, as it gives us a window into how the local fauna is faring, and from time to time, a most amazing photograph of a bobcat, deer or coyote pup.
A handful of long-term, certified volunteers have spent countless hours with Laguna Canyon Foundation and OC Parks learning what is needed to repair and maintain trails. Many started as short-term volunteers at a Laguna Canyon Foundation trail stewardship event and moved on to certification. As their interest and skills grow, they continue their commitment with OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation, serving at public programs and occasionally on special trail projects.
Specialty Hikes and Rides
Passions such as mountain biking and learning about native wildlife lead some of our long-term volunteers to share their expertise with others through volunteer-guided programs. We have volunteer bikers who have ridden both the world’s trails and our local trails – extensively. They lead rides for beginners as well as more advanced bikers, with patience, skill and local knowledge. Certified volunteers often develop a deep understanding of the native flora and fauna over time, sharing that knowledge on hikes and through photographs published on social media, on LCF’s website and in the local newspapers.
Park Ambassadors, Backcountry Patrol,Ranger Reserve and Fire Watch
These are certified volunteers who are out regularly during the week, and especially on the weekends, working alongside park staff at the trailheads and on the trails assisting park visitors and alerting the rangers of potential issues. As the volunteers’ knowledge grows, they serve as additional “eyes and ears” for the rangers – invaluable, considering the massive size of the South Coast Wilderness.
As you hike, ride or stroll through the parks, you will recognize these hardworking and long-term volunteers in the parks. They will be wearing LCF/OC Parks attire and badges and are often seen side by side with OC Parks staff.
OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation rely on our trained, skilled and knowledgeable volunteers. We are land stewards; we are also educators and naturalists guiding those who recreate in the wilderness towards a fuller knowledge and respect for the native plants and animals.
Together, we can both enjoy the open space and protect it.
If you would like to take the first steps in becoming a long-term, certified volunteer, come join us for an upcoming event. Introduce yourself! We’d love to meet you.