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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 85  |  October 23, 2020

OCTA begins restoration of Pacific Horizon Trail    


In April of 2015, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) purchased 151 acres of property adjacent to the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and Moulton Meadows Park, which will be protected as open space. With stunning views, Pacific Horizon Trail is a very popular trail that crosses the property, and just last week, OCTA started the restoration process.

According to Laguna Canyon Foundation Executive Director Hallie Jones, as part of the purchase, OCTA was required to do a Resource Management Plan (RMP), which is standard. That document covers future public use, restoration efforts, etc. All of the work being done was outlined in this RMP and approved as part of the RMP process. To view, click here.

OCTA begins blue sign

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LCF

Rehabilitation of Pacific Horizon Trail is underway

Jones says, “We are thrilled that OCTA preserved this property in Aliso Canyon. This gem of open space holds beautiful habitat, and a wonderful neighborhood trail. OCTA’s doing a great job taking care of the land by tackling these invasive species and helping to restore the property to its natural beauty. Our critically threatened coastal sage scrub habitats are home for endangered bird, reptile, and plant species, not to mention our amazing bobcats, mule deer, and other wildlife. We’re so happy to see good work being done to help restore this parcel for all of our benefit.”

As reported by the LA Times at the time of the parcel acquisition, biologists identified several at-risk species – called special status species – either on the site or near the area, including coastal whiptail lizards, northern harriers, coastal California gnatcatchers, and American peregrine falcon.

 Lesley Hill, OCTA’s environmental mitigation program project manager, says, “We are so excited that we were finally able to start our project. It will be a process. We at least got the Pampas grass colony and a new one that sprung up farther down the trail. [The] fence line is fixed, signs are up. We had maybe six or so people stop and ask what we were working on out on the OCTA Pacific Horizon Preserve.” 

OCTA begins plants

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Courtesy of LCF

Native plants – blue dick, sagebrush, cactus, and buckwheat – found on the Pacific Horizon Trail

“We explained we were restoring a section of the Preserve for sensitive species. Some asked if we were closing it off, and we explained that part of the trail would be restored, but you would still be able to use the main trail across the Preserve. People seemed to understand and support the idea.”

OCTA purchased this parcel as part of the Measure M funding, that provided funds for purchasing land to build a mitigation bank (acres that OCTA can draw upon for future development). This was OCTA’s first coastal Orange County land purchase. Under the program, OCTA buys open space from willing sellers through agreements with state and federal wildlife agencies in exchange for accelerated environmental permits for 13 freeway improvement projects.

OCTA Media Relations Specialist Eric Carpenter says, “To date, OCTA has purchased seven open-space properties from willing sellers to preserve the land. In all, five percent of Measure M’s freeway budget is available for this program, which totals more than $300 million over 30 years. Money for this project is identified through the Measure M fund.” 

OCTA begins green sign

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Courtesy of LCF

Habitat restoration underway

“The environmental program helps offset the impacts of more than a dozen freeway improvement projects that are helping improve the regional transportation system to keep Orange County moving, while at the same time preserving what is so special about Orange County.

“The program is a comprehensive effort to offset the environmental impacts of freeway projects by protecting large open spaces and permanently protecting their valuable animal and plant species.

“The restoration work is part of OCTA’s ongoing effort to protect what’s most valuable about the property.”

As explained on the LCF website, “The South Coast Wilderness [Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is part of the contiguous approximately 20,000-acre South Coast Wilderness Area in southern OC] 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 percent 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.”

OCTA begins Paula

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Courtesy of LCF

LCF Outreach Director Paula Olson and volunteers on Pacific Horizon Trail

Carpenter expands on the Pacific Horizon Trail rehabilitation, “The restoration project includes removing ice plant, invasive grasses, and other non-native plants on the property, to allow the native plants such as Many-stemmed Dudley to thrive. That work will continue over the next couple of years.

“Restoring the area with native plants is exactly what OCTA promised to do through its environmental program.

“Public access to trails predates OCTA owning the land and will continue. Hikers and mountain bikers will be able to continue access through the property.

“Because of the land’s proximity to the coast, OCTA has worked closely with the Coastal Commission and Laguna Beach officials to ensure that all proper procedures are being followed and OCTA has received positive feedback from the commission, city officials, and the environmental community.”


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

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