The South Coast Wilderness is a unique area that is included in the California Floristic Province, which is designated as a global biodiversity hotspot. To qualify as a global biodiversity hotspot, an area must have at least 1,500 endemic species (species found nowhere else on the planet), and have lost at least 70% of its native vegetation.
Restoration of this precious open space includes removing invasive species, adding native plants in degraded areas and educating the public about the beauty and ecology of our wild lands as well as the threats they face.
In partnership with the Laguna Beach Fire Department, we are managing the vegetation in the canyons and slopes adjacent to neighborhoods and businesses to reduce fire behavior potential in these regions.
Our work focuses on areas with high levels of habitat value and includes communicating with the neighbors, surveying for survey for sensitive plants and nesting birds and carefully selecting which plants are to be saved and laddered up and which plants are invasive and should be removed.
Keeping water off and users on the trails.
In partnership with OC Parks and with the support of our dedicated volunteers, we help maintain the 70 miles of trails in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. This includes tread improvements, brushing, insloped turns, drain maintenance and naturalizing social trails.
Aliso Creek Habitat Restoration
Restoring the Aliso Creek Watershed to its natural state.
Laguna Canyon Foundation is leading a multi-year, multi-agency effort to remove invasive species from Aliso Creek. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) awarded Laguna Canyon Foundation a $1.1 million grant to begin the project in 2014, and since then Laguna Canyon Foundation has helped bring in an additional $3 million from Proposition 84 Integrated Regional Water Management grant funding and other sources. The overall restoration of the Aliso Creek Watershed will remove invasive species from 55 acres across a 19.7-mile stretch – from Portola Parkway all the way to Aliso Beach.
Big Bend Restoration
Transforming a dirt lot into a beautiful community nature trail and wildlife corridor in the heart of the canyon.
This 3.7-acre City of Laguna Beach-owned property has been restored with native oaks, sycamores, and coastal sage scrub species, as well as trails providing improved access to natural spaces for those who live and work in the canyon.
This project was the first OCTA habitat mitigation project to achieve sign-off on its success criteria.
Restoring threatened big-leaved crownbeard to South Laguna Beach, one of the two places in the world where it can be found.
Big-leaved crownbeard (Verbesina dissita) is a federal- and state-listed threatened species found only in Baja California and a small area in South Laguna Beach. Laguna Canyon Foundation is partnering with multiple private property owners, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the City of Laguna Beach to transplant crownbeard growing on private parcels slated for development to a city-owned, conservation easement-protected parcel nearby. Once the crownbeard is established in its new location, Laguna Canyon Foundation will be responsible for monitoring and managing those plants in perpetuity.
Water Tank Ravine Restoration (bottom of Stair Steps Trail)
Converting? an old dump site back into a pristine coastal canyon.
During the historic flooding that occurred in Laguna Canyon in 2010, an old incineration and dump site was uncovered on this 100-acre City-owned open space. The dump site required a massive cleanup, which was completed in January 2015. Laguna Canyon Foundation has partnered with the City to restore native habitat to several areas of this property damaged by the flooding and subsequent cleanup operation.
Laguna Canyon Creek Restoration
Restoring and enhancing riparian habitat and creating trails along an undeveloped reach of Laguna Canyon Creek.
Laguna Canyon Creek (in front of our new canyon headquarters) passes through one of the original homestead sites in Laguna Canyon. After years as a walnut plantation, a pig farm and a horse ranch, it has spent the last several decades slowly reverting to its natural state and is now the largest remaining area of undeveloped riparian habitat in the canyon. The City of Laguna Beach purchased this 100-acre property to protect as open space in 1991.
This is a collaborative project between the City of Laguna Beach, Laguna Canyon Foundation, and Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., and is being generously funded by a grant from the California Natural Resources Agency.
This project includes debris removal, five acres of habitat enhancement and restoration, construction and improvement of approximately 0.5 miles of trails on the property, and the design and installation of several interpretive signs to help educate the public about the history of this property, the importance of riparian habitat to wildlife, and the process of ecological restoration.
Laguna Canyon Creek Channel Clearance (between the Dog Park and El Toro)
Mitigating the risk of flooding in Laguna Canyon while removing invasive weeds to improve habitat.
After heavy rainfall and floods in December 2010 caused significant damage to homes and businesses in the canyon, the City of Laguna Beach began an annual debris cleanup program in key sections of Laguna Canyon Creek.
Laguna Canyon Foundation partners with the Orange County Conservation Corps to accomplish this work each fall. In addition to removing branches, trash, and other debris that could form a dam and cause floodwaters to back up, we also remove invasive non-native weeds from the channel, including giant reed, yellow flag iris and pampas grass. Left unchecked, these species could outcompete native plants and degrade the habitat quality of this important riparian system that is critical for many wildlife species that live in the area.
Laguna Ridge Trail Restoration
Improving trail sustainability and restoring damage from wildfire and erosion.
Due to dramatically increased use over the last two decades, a steep, fall-line section of Laguna Ridge had widened from a narrow dirt singletrack to a boulder field over 30 feet wide in places and continuing to widen. Working closely with OC Parks, Laguna Canyon Foundation proposed a solution that included a reroute and trail realignment to halt continuing erosion and habitat fragmentation. With the help of our dedicated trail stewardship volunteers, we completed this work during the 2015-2016 season. We transplanted over 100 native bunchgrasses as part of this process.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2016, a wildfire burned approximately 50 acres, including much of the area that the newly-completed reroute ran through. As part of the fire suppression activities, a bulldozer line – known as a “dozer scar” – was constructed on the next ridge north of the trail.
Laguna Canyon Foundation obtained generous grant funding from the Marisla Foundation and the S.L. Gimbel Foundation to restore this native habitat after the fire. With the help of the Orange County Conservation Corps, we installed 2000 feet of erosion control wattles, planted more than 500 native shrubs and grasses, and distributed more than 1000 cactus pads. . Ongoing work will include installing additional container plants and spreading native seeds to help return the area to a healthy wildlife habitat.
North Laguna Cactus Scrub Restoration
Bringing sensitive cactus and coastal scrub habitat back to life.
Laguna Canyon Foundation partnered with the Laguna Beach County Water District (LBCWD) and OC Parks to restore a coastal hillside in North Laguna within Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The 4-acre project re-established native plants in an area owned by LBCWD which had been significantly damaged by the historic 2010 floods. Laguna Canyon Foundation installed more than 2,000 prickly pear cacti and an assortment of other cactus scrub and species, helping the wilderness rebound to functional habitat. The formerly denuded hillside is now thriving with dense habitat that supports mule deer, threatened coastal California gnatcatcher and other wildlife species.
Pecten Reef Habitat Restoration
Expanding restoration efforts in the Aliso Creek watershed.
Running for 19.7 miles from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, the Aliso Creek watershed has been almost completely developed over the past 40 years into an urban area comprising seven cities. The riparian corridor associated with Aliso Creek is a key movement area for wildlife. The Pecten Reef Habitat Restoration Project consists of 26 acres of wetland, riparian, riparian-transitional and upland habitat restoration through the removal of invasive species and the installation of native plants.
This project is wholly contained within Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, and is home to the largest and best-preserved outcrop of its namesake, a vital marine fossil formation known as the Pecten Reef. Due to the destruction of its vegetation through historic sheep grazing and consequent neglect, Pecten Hill remains barren of native cover, leaving its sensitive paleontological resources vulnerable to vandalism and theft.
Several threatened, endangered and rare species, including the Southwestern pond turtle and Least Bell’s Vireo, call this area home.
Achieving wildfire safety goals while protecting our beautiful canyons and sensitive habitat.
Laguna Canyon Foundation has partnered with the City of Laguna Beach Fire Department (LBFD) to implement and maintain multiple fuel modification projects. In August 2018, LBFD and Laguna Canyon Foundation received a large grant from the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection to plan and implement additional fuel modification efforts in Laguna Canyon.
These projects showcase an environmentally sustainable way to achieve fire safety objectives. More traditional fuel modification methods, such as creating wide-open fuel breaks or clearing an area using goats, impact native plants, cause erosion, and spread invasive plant species. In our methodology, specially-trained and closely-supervised hand crews remove ladder fuels and non-native, dead, or dying vegetation, and thin remaining vegetation where necessary in order to reduce potential fire behavior. This allows us to maintain native vegetative cover, protect rare plant species, and reduce the potential for erosion or weed problems. These methods protect wildlife habitat and aesthetic values to the greatest extent possible, while providing an additional measure of safety to at-risk neighborhoods and to firefighters in case of wildfire.
Laguna Canyon Foundation coordinates pre-project planning and neighbor outreach, educates contractor crews, directs contractor work in the field, conducts photo monitoring and sensitive species protection measures, and ensures that the work is completed to the necessary standards. We also oversee ongoing maintenance work once initial treatment is complete.
Current fuel modification projects include the neighborhoods of:
- Barracuda Way
- Driftwood Drive
- Oro Canyon
- Nyes-Oro open space
- Hobo Canyon
- North Bluebird Canyon
- South Bluebird Canyon
- Diamond Canyon
- South Laguna
- Sunset Avenue
- Park Avenue
- Canyon Acres
- Laguna Canyon
Working in concert with OC Parks, we maintain and improve elect trails to both enhance park users’ experience while protecting the sensitive habitat surrounding the trails.
Our guiding principle is to keep users on the trails and water off.
Our work includes improving and maintaining drainage features, building insloped turns, and brushing, seeding and naturalizing trails, as well as larger projects such as constructing puncheons and bridges and transporting thousands of pounds of materials (including water) to facilitate the trail work.
We work on the following trails:
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
- 5 Oaks
- Car Wreck
- Coyote Run
- Mentally Sensitive
- Stair Step
- Wood Canyon
- Wood Creek
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
- Emerald Canyon
- Laguna Ridge
- Laurel Canyon
- Old Emerald
- Stage Coach South