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Adopt-a-Park Programs Let Handy Helpers Pick a Spot


Orange County's 17 regional parks are as understaffed and short of funds as are its public gardens, and they also welcome volunteer help.

In April the county formalized its Adopt-a-Park program to add focus to those efforts. "Our program is modeled after the Caltrans's Adopt-a-Highway program, which has been incredibly successful," says Kathie Matsuyama, senior landscape architect at the county's Environmental Management Agency. "The idea is to make the opportunities for volunteerism more visible and give volunteers more recognition."

Everyone benefits under the program, says Tim Miller, manager of Orange County's regional parks. "The county accomplishes things we couldn't do otherwise because of lack of funds and staff," he says.

The eight miles of trails at Peters Canyon Regional Park, opened in April of 1993 and built entirely with volunteer labor, are a good example. "The public gets an improved system. And individuals gain a sense of ownership," Miller said.

"When they've spent hours out there building a trail, they're going to get on anyone's case who's defacing it. They have a vested interest in it."

There are three components to the county program: Adopt-a-Beach, Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Park.

The beach portion of the volunteer program is primarily devoted to coastal clean-up projects. The trail portion has a natural volunteer support base in its users, Matsuyama says. If bicyclists, hikers and equestrians want trails, they have to help maintain them, says Jim Meyer, a member of the bicycle club SHARE and founder of the Trail Council. "Counties are never going to be have the budgets to do it by themselves again."

It is the Adopt-a-Park portion of the program that offers garden-minded volunteers the greatest number of possibilities.

Projects can be one-time--such as painting a park bench--or ongoing. A Girl Scout troop, for instance, maintains a rose garden at Craig Regional Park in Fullerton, and Sea and Sage has assumed maintenance responsibility for sections of native vegetation in Irvine Regional Park that it urged the county to plant to provide additional bird habitat.

"We'd like to have a garden club help us with planning and planting a rose garden at the Modjeska House," Matsuyama suggests. "Or people to create and construct interpretive displays. We need tree planters, nature guides, zoo helpers."

Each of the 17 regional parks is different, Miller says. "Some are highly developed; others are mostly wilderness, and some have historical interest. Volunteer opportunities vary according to the nature of the park."

Miller suggests visiting your local regional park and looking around to see how it could be improved and then getting involved. The rangers all have lists of projects ready for volunteers to undertake, he says.

And volunteering at a regional park is the next best thing to inheriting property.

"The public owns the parks, but most people don't feel that way," Miller explains. "Volunteers do. For them, ownership is real."

Volunteering at Orange County Parks

Whom to call to volunteer (all numbers are 714 area code): Countywide Programs Trail Volunteer Hotline: 379-2719 Adopt-a-Trail Coordinator: 834-5372 Adopt-a-Beach Coordinator: 723-4514 Adopt-a-Park Coordinator: 771-6731, ext. 15

Regional Park Headquarters

Park Phone Ranger Aliso & Wood Canyons Regional Park 831-2791 Bruce Buchman Carbon Canyon Regional Park, Brea 996-5252/3 Jeff Bukshpan Caspers Wilderness Park, 831-2174 Al Macias San Juan Capistrano Clark Regional Park, Buena Park 670-8045/6 Jerry Delnero Craig Regional Park, Fullerton 990-0271/2 Linda Huffnagle Featherly Regional Park, Anaheim 637-0210 -- Heritage Hill Historical Park, 855-2028 Dan Thomas El Toro Irvine Regional Park, Orange 633-8074 Neil Underhill Key Ranch, Placentia 528-4260 Mike Miniaci Laguna Coast Wilderness Park 854-7108 Larry Sweet Laguna Niguel Regional Park, 831-2791 Bruce Buchman Laguna Niguel Mason Regional Park, Irvine 854-2490 Jerry Lahart Mile Square Regional Park, 962-5549 Parker Hancock Fountain Valley Modjeska House Park, Modjeska 855-2028 Dan Thomas O'Neill Regional Park, 858-9365 Cliff Cawood Trabuco Canyon Peters Canyon Regional Park, Orange 538-4400 Raul Herrera Ramon Peralta Adobe Historical Site, 528-4260 Mike Miniaci Anaheim Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Orange 538-4400/1 John Bovee Upper Newport Bay Regional Park, 640-1751 Nancy Bruland Newport Beach Whiting Ranch Regional Park, 589-4729 John Gannaway Trabuco Canyon Yorba Regional Park, Yorba Linda 970-1460 Chuck Thornburg

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