As a San Juan Capistrano native, every generation of my family has enjoyed riding horses and hiking in the peaceful hills that surround our beautiful city. Our city is 40% open space, which makes it unique in Orange County.
As valued as the city's public open space is, it often lacks two critical elements - accessibility and usability. These areas often require trail, habitat, and public use improvements and the city lacks funding for many of these projects. To address this need, a group of local volunteers established the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation in January 2009. Our mission: to acquire, promote, preserve and maintain the city's open space land resources for the enjoyment of all.
We have accomplished a great deal in our first five years. In June 2011, the Foundation completed the Northwest Open Space (NWOS) Staging Area. The city acquired this 68-acre property in 1990; however it sat fenced and vacant for 20 years unable to be used by the public. Leveraging donations and more than 50 enthusiastic volunteers, Foundation volunteers built a new multi-use staging area with split rail fencing, irrigation, watering troughs, picnic tables, trash cans, a hitching post, doggie bag station, a new driveway entrance, and a monument sign. The site is now open daily and is popular with hikers, bikers, equestrians and picnickers.
After months of work by Foundation volunteers, 2C Ranch Staging Area was completed in June 2012. This 109-acre site in the NWOS was purchased by the city in 2009. It was in total disrepair. Foundation volunteers installed numerous improvements - such as split rail fencing, picnic tables, a watering trough, a hitching post, and a monument sign - transforming this underused site into one that is usable and accessible to all.
Foundation volunteers worked for several months building the popular Dr. Joe Cortese Dog Park, which opened to the public in August 2013. Thanks to a major contribution from Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort and generous donations from the community, our volunteers created an accessible area that features play areas for large and small dogs, as well as picnic tables, benches, doggy drinking fountains and an access ramp for the disabled.
Our biggest project to date – the Reata Park and Event Center – opened to the public in May 2014 and is a popular destination for residents and visitors. This formerly inaccessible 18-acre site is part of the larger 132-acre open space area owned by the city that also includes the RMV Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano. Thousands of hours of volunteer support and an outpouring of contributions allowed the Foundation to transform this unusable site into a beautiful destination for residents and visitors. This award-winning park features a 6-acre native plant garden, equestrian staging area, event areas, and a carefully restored historic building that now serves as the Welcome Center. The beautiful setting is ideal for anything from weddings and corporate retreats to family picnics and nature walks.
Our volunteers are working hard, but we can't do it alone. We need everyone's help to make these projects a reality. The Foundation is completely run by volunteers so 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes directly to the improvements. Our volunteers handle everything - from administrative paperwork, to building fences and clearing weeds. There is no overhead so your contributions directly benefit our entire community.
Buoyed by strong community support, the Foundation has experienced an incredible first nine years. With the help of our dedicated volunteers and your generous donations, we will continue to make huge strides toward our goal of making our city's open space available to everyone. Please JOIN US as we make our city’s open space accessible and preserve it for future generations.
Orange County Sheriff - Retired
P.S. Show your support for the Open Space Foundation by becoming a member! Members can participate in helping us as volunteers and will receive many benefits, including an e-Newsletter that provides updates on the Foundation's ongoing work and advance notice of upcoming events. Please visit our membership page for more information