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More Room (1,000 Acres) to Move Around in O'Neill Park

August 03, 1995|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff. and

O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon opened in 1948 as a remote retreat from the booming cities to the south and west.

Suburbia has finally found O'Neill, but the magnificent oaks and views of the Santa Ana Mountains have continued to make it worth visiting. Now there are 1,000 new reasons to come.

Very quietly--not surprising, given the county's financial state--the park doubled in size in June with the public opening of the 1,000-acre Arroyo Trabuco. The long, narrow strip snakes southward from the old park boundaries, along the Trabuco Creek bottom.

The park addition encompasses some of the biggest sycamore trees in the county, according to Tim Miller, operations manager for the regional parks. The county has owned the parcel since 1983, he said, but its opening was delayed for a number of reasons. One was construction of a Foothill Transportation Corridor bridge that crosses the arroyo; there was also storm damage from recent winter rains to repair.

Now it's finally open, and, despite the low-key debut, park rangers report that the six-mile trail is already attracting a crowd of equestrians, hikers and joggers. The wide, flat path (which parallels the year-round stream) may not offer much challenge to cyclists, but it should prove an enjoyable mountain bike ride for beginners and families.

The new stretch of park is accessible in two ways: from the main park entrance at O'Neill (the arroyo trail starts at the old picnic grounds; ask for directions) and at the midway point from Arroyo Vista, a street in Rancho Santa Margarita. Miller reports that a third entrance will be added at the Oso Parkway over-crossing.

Summer burns hot in the foothills--don't forget to carry water.

* What: Arroyo Trabuco addition to O'Neill Regional Park.

* When: Day use hours are 7 a.m. to sunset (camping also available).

* Where: Trabuco Canyon.

* Whereabouts: From Interstate 5, take El Toro Road north to the Cook's Corner roadhouse and turn right on Live Oak Canyon Road. Follow the road to the park entrance, on the right.

* Wherewithal: Parking is $2 per vehicle.

* Where to call: (714) 858-9365.

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