Spring 2014
Grand Opening of Reata Park Coming Soon!

Native Plant Garden Embraces History and Ecology at Reata Park

Volunteer Spotlight -
Steve Behmerwohld


2014 Membership Drive Going Strong!



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Brad Gates, President
Dick Paulsen, V.P. 
and Treasurer
Tim Neely, Secretary
Mike Barth
Greg Dillion
Mike Evans
Matt Gaffney
Al King
Rhonda Kreger
Mark Nielsen
Tom Ostensen
Paul St. Pierre
Derek Ostensen, Conservation Consultant
Robert R. Redwitz, CPA


San Juan Capistrano
Open Space Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit public benefit corporation that was established in
January 2009.

Our mission is to acquire and promote the preservation, restoration, expansion, improvement and public use of open space within the City of San Juan Capistrano to enrich the quality of life for area residents.

Grand Opening of Reata Park Coming Soon!
Foundation member and volunteer Matt Gaffney adds the finishing touch to a shade structure
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos
After months of hard work by Open Space Foundation volunteers, Reata Park and Event Center is nearly ready to make its public debut. Volunteers are completing the finishing touches -- painting shade structures, cultivating the garden, and cleaning up the area -- in anticipation for the park's opening next month.
The city will hold a Dedication Ceremony and Grand Opening of the Reata Park and Event Center on Saturday, May 31 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. There will be fun activities for all ages, including entertainment, docent tours, and exhibits. Please visit the City of San Juan Capistrano's website or call (949) 493-5911 for more information about the event. Hope to see you there!

Native Plant Garden Embraces History and Ecology at Reata Park
Native plants and trees on
display at Reata Park
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos

Strolling through the new Reata Park and Event Center is no ordinary walk in the park. Unlike other outdoor recreation areas in Southern California, you won't see expanses of mowed lawns or paved parking lots. Instead you will be treated to a true California experience, including an extensive 6-acre native plant garden that winds its way throughout the 18-acre public park.


Open Space Foundation board members were committed to keeping a natural landscape at Reata Park. Using only native plant material preserves the historic nature of the site and enhances the rustic setting, which already includes mature oak and sycamore trees. In addition, the native plants are drought-tolerant and need minimal water and maintenance. Once established, the plants will only require minimal irrigation four to five times per year.


Open Space Foundation board member Mike Evans is one of the masterminds behind the native plant garden and has donated nearly 500 hours toward the project. As founder and president of Tree of Life Nursery, he is an expert at creating conservative, genuine landscapes. The nursery has been operating in San Juan Capistrano since 1976 and is the largest grower of native plants in the state. "The native plant garden at Reata Park is on par with those at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the LA Natural History Museum, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden," Evans said. "With more than 6,000 trees and plants representing 200 varieties at Reata Park, we have combined a significant botanical resource and a public park in one beautiful location."


The Home Orchard includes native fruit trees and an herb garden
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos

Evans' thoughtful design takes park visitors through different landscape settings. The most tailored area surrounds the restored 1920s historic home and contains plants and trees typical for the time period. The Home Orchard includes an herb garden and a wide variety of fruit trees, such as avocado, fig, and olive. Although not native, a rose garden was also planted in this area to replicate the one shown in historic home photos.


On the park's west side, the Arboretum serves as a home garden design model. Here visitors will see first-hand how they might transform their own yards into an earth-friendly landscape. Finally, on the outer edges of the park, the Habitat Garden replicates a wild plant environment. The plants in this area are more widely spread out and sporadic, giving visitors the feeling of walking through an untamed section of California open space.


The earth-friendly design of Reata Park also includes semi-permeable roadways and parking areas that prevent oil and other pollutants from running off into the nearby creek. In addition, there is a network of plant-lined drainage channels (known as "bioswales") that clean and bring excess water to basins to be reabsorbed into the park's soil.


Mike Evans works with volunteers Emma and Joanna Perlas
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos

Evans sees the park not only as a historical, recreational, and botanical resource, but also as a valuable educational tool. "This is a great opportunity for local volunteers and educators to get involved in the community," Evans said. "I envision docents leading walking tours, volunteers engaging in nature by cultivating the garden, and students of all ages learning about a slice of California history. Reata Park and Event Center is going to put San Juan Capistrano on the map as a leader in eco-friendly public land use." 

Volunteer Spotlight - Steve Behmerwohld
Steve Behmerwohld
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos  

If you live in San Juan Capistrano, there's a good chance you know Steve Behmerwohld. A resident of San Juan Capistrano for 24 years, he cares deeply about his community and serving those in need. He fulfills both of these passions by being an avid volunteer. Since retiring from a telecommunications career in 2003, Steve has donated thousands of hours toward helping others and the impact of his efforts are felt throughout the entire community.


Steve began volunteering with the Open Space Foundation about three years ago and has put in hundreds of hours of work on its projects. As the projects have grown, so has his commitment. You can find Steve at Reata Park nearly every Saturday and often during the week. He does it all - from building fences and constructing benches to painting and electrical wiring.


"I enjoy volunteering with the Open Space Foundation because we are leaving a legacy for future generations," Steve said. "I believe that Reata Park will be the shining jewel of San Juan Capistrano and I'm proud to be a part of it."


The Open Space Foundation is just one of the fortunate organizations that benefits from Steve's enthusiastic support and skills. Currently, he serves on the city's Parks, Recreation & Senior Services Commission and is an Associated Senior Action Program (ASAP) volunteer, patrolling the city by bike to help keep its parks, trails and streets safe. In addition, he mentors students at Kinoshita Elementary School, serves on the Historical Society Board, and assists seniors through the Meals on Wheels program. 


Steve Behmerwohld lends a
helping hand at Reata Park

©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos 
In 2013, the San Juan Capistrano City Council recognized Steve's outstanding service by adding his name to the city's Wall of Recognition. In addition, the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce named him 2013 "Man of the Year" in appreciation of his significant contributions to the city. 
Steve is committed to making his community the best it can be. The Open Space Foundation offers its deepest thanks to Steve Behmerwohld for his outstanding volunteer service and dedication to making our city's open spaces usable and accessible to all.


2014 Membership Drive Going Strong!
Thanks to you, our 2014 membership drive is our best yet! We've had a fantastic response to our outreach efforts and are excited to welcome so many renewing and first-time members.

As you know, one of the best ways to show your support of the Open Space Foundation is by becoming an annual member. Your donation goes directly toward helping us improve our open space and is a long-lasting investment in your community. Your support will benefit current and future generations by preserving our precious open space and making it accessible for all to enjoy.
It's never too late to become an annual member! Please visit our website to learn more. Thank you for your support!