Laguna Canyon Foundation

Excellence in Volunteerism Award Winner

OC Community Resources
OC Parks
Adopt-A-Park Program

Laguna Canyon Foundation Members

Pictured from left to right - Madeline Jensma, Marlo Jensma, Robert Kerman,
Guine Breeding, Norm Lacourciere, Tom Eastman, Roxanne Bradley,
David Marino, Lynne Jeffries & Karen Anderson.

ACTION: What does the honoree do?

Laguna Canyon Foundation (L.C.F.) has served Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (LACO) for more than 20 years, beginning its involvement by spearheading efforts to save the magnificent canyons from development.  L.C.F. recruits, trains, and provides networking opportunities for the LACO volunteers.  Currently, there are 334 L.C.F. volunteers.

L.C.F. coordinates a variety of visitor services at LACO.  Through the Wilderness Access program, three park entryways are staffed with volunteers who meet and greet the public and provide safety, trail, and park information.  L.C.F. Backcountry and Mountain Bike Patrol volunteers assist visitors on the trail by carrying extra maps and water, noting problems along the trail, and maintaining a presence throughout the park. 

L.C.F. docents lead several activities at LACO, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park (ALWO), and Laguna Niguel Regional Park (LNRP).  The enthusiastic docents provide 30 different programs throughout the year, with three to six activities offered each week.  From fitness to geology, wildflowers to mommy and me classes, cultural resources to family fun days – L.C.F. organizes something for everyone.

Over the past year, L.C.F. initiated “Eventbrite,” an online registration program that enables the public to sign up for activities offered at LACO, ALWO, and LNRP.  The online registration frees up staff time for higher-level duties and allows L.C.F. to send out activity reminders, attendance lists, and press releases to publicize events.

L.C.F. supports LACO’s efforts in providing educational programs for local school children.  L.C.F. solicited private grants to fund field trips to LACO, ALWO, and Crystal Cove for students living in disadvantaged urban areas of Orange County.  Transportation to the sites along with enrichment programs are provided to the students free-of-charge.  Children who participate in the field trips experience the diverse natural resources of Orange County parks and learn about the plant and animal life unique to the area.  Over the past year, L.C.F. has introduced more than 2,000 students to parks and local wildlife. 

L.C.F. helps fund speakers and performers for special “Weekends at the Nix Nature Center” series, scheduled four – six times each year with 80 – 100 visitors per event. The programs include topics that are relevant to park resources and are so popular that registration must be limited.  After five years of extensive public use, it was recently ascertained that several Nix Nature Center exhibits required renovations.  L.C.F is funding and has managed the redesign and construction of new exhibits and has purchased a shade sail to cover the LACO amphitheater.

L.C.F. provides stewardship services such as “Keep It Wild” days for LACO and ALWO, and volunteers work with the general public on habitat enhancement projects.  In addition, the Native Plant Nursery is run by volunteers who grow local native plants for restoration efforts.  A volunteer camera team monitors wildlife in the park and is also able to document potential misuse of the area by the public.

L.C.F. is spearheading oversight of plans to build a wildlife corridor and establish connectivity between the Santa Ana Mountains and LACO.  This is important in sustaining genetic diversity of larger mammals in the area.  In addition, the organization continues to be involved in active solicitation and acquisition of open space to be added to the wilderness parks.

Another example of the L.C.F.’s accomplishments is in the Aliso Creek area, which is being choked by the non-native giant reed.  L.C.F. received a grant of $1.17 million for the removal of this noxious species from the park to the ocean, a most important and ambitious project, especially for the area’s wildlife and for ALWO visitors.

NEED: What community need does the honoree address?

L.C.F. provides OC Parks with tremendous resources including:  Volunteer and nature center support; public education to help ensure current and future park support; stewardship assistance; ecosystem stability by acquiring contiguous land and participating in wildlife corridor planning; and park staff support by managing projects and programs and funding equipment.  It is truly a measure of the dedication of the L.C.F. staff and Board of Directors that they can accomplish so much with such a small staff.

IMPACT: What is different as a result of the honoree's service?

As a result of L.C.F.’s service in the past 12 months, 50,000 LACO visitors received a personal welcome to the park, information to help them plan their hikes and better understand the park, and docent-led programs to assist them in connecting with park resources.  The Nix Nature Center continues to improve, and LACO and ALWO staff have the capability to better maintain trails and habitat with the help of L.C.F. volunteers.  In addition, important resources have been protected through the hiring of consultants and work crews and the involvement of volunteers who assist with restoration projects.

INSPIRATION: What makes the honoree unique/special?

L.C.F. works cooperatively with the parks to assist staff.  Volunteers listen, follow through, and magically succeed in serving the parks and the public no matter how difficult the problems or requests.  In the past year, L.C.F. volunteers have logged more than 16,000 hours of service, and L.C.F. has provided more than $557,000 in support of the parks. Funding includes land acquisitions ($325.000), exhibits at the Nix Nature Center ($86,000), youth education programs ($72,000), habitat restoration ($24,000), and volunteer program support ($50,000).  L.C.F. raises all funding from private donors and through public and private grant solicitation.

L.C.F. has supported LACO for more than 20 years. Specifically formed to raise the capital needed to purchase the land, L.C.F succeeded in this goal, helping to formally establish LACO in 1993.  Fifteen years later, L.C.F. raised funds to begin construction on the Nix Nature Center.  In 2006, L.C.F. assumed management of the LACO volunteer program from Laguna Greenbelt and at the same time, began a youth education program for underserved Orange County youth.

Thank you and congratulations to the Laguna Canyon Foundation, recipient of the Excellence in Volunteerism Award!

Click here to find out how you can volunteer with the OC Parks, Adopt-A-Park Program.