Summer 2015

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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
Tom Ostensen
Paul St. Pierre
Harrison Taylor
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.

Reata Park: A Gift to the Community

by Catherine Pannell Waters


Catherine Pannell Waters
When we heard that Mike Evans of Tree of Life Nursery, one of California's premier plantsmen, was deeply involved in donating, designing, planting and instructing staff in the art of native plant maintenance for the new Reata Park and Event Center in San Juan Capistrano, we began following the park's progress. My husband, Robert, and I have historically mined the corridor along The Ortega for recreational pursuits and quickly added Reata Park to our quiver of places to visit. The new park encompasses gardens, riparian areas, event center, paths, Orange County history, the San Juan Creek trail, and adjacent natural areas. At the crossroads of Ortega Highway and San Juan Creek, Reata Park is a special gift.


Over the years, Robert and I have grown familiar with the locations along Ortega Highway that feed our souls. Summer and fall day camping at Casper's Regional Park yields Lesser Nighthawks and Yuma myotis bats in the twilight. Walking on Bell Canyon Road, it is possible to see Poorwills skipping ahead as you walk in the gloaming. Next door, at Tree of Life Nursery, we stop by Saturday mornings to check what native plants are available and what resident birds are nesting on their grounds. Farther up the road is the old San Juan Hot Springs where Lazuli Buntings can be found in spring and Mountain Blue Birds in winter. 

A Lesser Goldfinch 
rests at Reata Park
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos

Reata Park quickly became part of our weekly pattern and just as quickly also became a single destination. We found inspiration. The birds were slow to return to the newly open area, which had been widely disturbed for years. Now altered, with its wide paths and beautiful plantings adjacent to San Juan Creek, the area has quickly evolved. In its second year since opening to the public, the park and surrounding areas are now rich places to watch for wildlife, including birds, enjoy a meal in a lovely picnic area, or simply sit or amble and watch nature unfold.


For those looking for native plant gardening resources, Reata Park is an extraordinary gift. It is a living "coffee table book" meant to inspire and educate with garden vignettes, design ideas, and a visual series of gardening and maintenance lessons - all available within the context of a stroll through what many of us hope becomes the new paradigm for the "Old California" style landscape. It answers questions for those of us interested in native plants or those thinking about changing the way we approach our homes and gardens. How do native plants perform in a garden setting? Can mulch as a ground cover stand alone? What materials could we use to build a garden path? What plants are in bloom in this month? Can we prune that and when? Right at our feet along the lovely paths are swathes of potential plantings suitable for any size yard.

Easily accessed by car, foot or bike, Reata Park is a wonderful open space, multi use destination in San Juan Capistrano.


* * *

Residents of Los Angeles and Orange County, Catherine and Robert Waters are life-long gardeners and bird watchers. She is past president of Western Field Ornithologists and currently sits on their Board of Directors and chairs their publications committee. Inspired by the natural areas of southern Orange County, they designed and planted a small urban wildlife sanctuary at their residence.


Capistrano Union High School Reunion to be Held at City Park
Capistrano Union High School (CUHS) may have closed in 1964, but the camaraderie and spirit of its alumni lives on! Alumni from all classes will reunite at Reata Park and Event Center on Saturday, July 25 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. for an afternoon of reminiscing, food, and fun.

CUHS opened in 1920 across the street from the Mission and served students from San Juan Capistrano, Capistrano Beach, San Clemente and Dana Point until it's closure 44 years later. Reunion organizer Pat Forster is expecting roughly 250 alumni to attend the event, representing graduating classes from 1940-1964.

Reunion to be held at Reata Park
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos
Forster is excited to have the reunion at the beautiful Reata Park, located at Ortega Highway and Reata Road. "Reata Park is right here in our town and is a perfect place to have an event," he said. "The rental cost is reasonable, there are lots of picnic tables, and plenty of free parking." The reunion will be held in the shaded Event Center and surrounding outdoor area.

Interested CUHS alumni please call Pat Forster at (949) 493-4080 for more information and/or to RSVP.

Host Your Next Event at Reata Park
Since opening in May 2014, Reata Park and Event Center has been a popular destination for residents and visitors alike. While the park is free of charge for individuals coming to enjoy the beautiful grounds for a hike, picnic, or horseback ride, there are also indoor and outdoor areas that can be rented for larger group events. 

Guests enjoying live music at a
Reata Park event last year
©Eddie Perlas/Epic Photos
Reata Park was the site for several events since it opened last year. Special events such as wedding receptions, local fundraisers, weekly church group gatherings, and community information meetings filled the park's calendar. In addition, a free public garden class series was offered throughout March and April. "Smart Gardening 101," hosted by Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens and presented by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Orange County, provided tips on how to create a successful garden that best fits the new climate dynamics.

Hosting an event at Reata Park is a great way to enjoy our public open space, and rental fees go back to the city to help with park maintenance and other community services. The City of San Juan Capistrano manages reservations for all city parks. To reserve your next event at Reata Park, please contact the city's Community Services Coordinator Gil Leon at (949) 443-6393. For more information on all city parks, please visit the City of San Juan Capistrano's website

Thank You to Our Members!

We are delighted to welcome so many new and renewing members for 2015! Your membership plays a fundamental role in our success, and provides us with funding to create some of the wonderful parks that you see in our community. Thank you so much for your support - we could not do it without you!


If you have not joined or renewed yet, it's not too late! There are many benefits to becoming an SJC Open Space Foundation member, such as: 

  • Subscription to the Open Space Foundation's quarterly e-Newsletter
  • Open Space Foundation decal
  • Advance notice of public events
  • Sponsor recognition in select Open Space Foundation publications
  • Knowing that you are doing something positive for your community and its future!

Join or renew today! For more information and/or to register online, please visit our website