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By OC Board Supervisor Lisa Bartlett
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, combined with the arrival of summer-like temperatures and warm coastal breezes, it’s easy to see why so many residents are flocking to Orange County beaches, parks and trails for a well-deserved respite.
Orange County is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, parks and trails in the state, and spring is the perfect time to enjoy nature’s beauty.
There’s nothing like a stroll along Salt Creek Beach, or a hike through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, to shake the blues away. Increasing evidence demonstrates the many benefits of nature on our psychological and physical well-being, including reduced stress, greater physical health, more creativity and improved concentration.
So, if you’re out and about and inclined to visit one of the county’s wilderness parks, let me point you in the direction of one of my favorite spots—Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is part of the 19,000-acre Laguna Coast Greenbelt and the 38,000-acre National Nature Preserve of Orange County. The park’s 4,500 acres of coastal canyons, grasslands and oak and sycamore woodlands represent one of the most pristine natural areas in Orange County.
Award-winning enhancements to the park’s main entrance provide a staging area for hikers, bikers and equestrians to start their journey into the park. The park is rich in human history and features many interesting geological formations and archaeological and paleontological sites. It also includes a variety of bicycle and equestrian trails, family picnic areas and hiking trails.
One of the newest attractions at the park, which I am very excited about, is the new Aliso and Wood Canyon Visitors Center scheduled to open in early May. The new 2,600 square-foot center will provide park visitors with an introduction to the park’s vast natural and cultural resources and provide a place for outdoor environmental stewardship and education.
The center and public restroom buildings were designed with keeping the site’s natural elements in mind while structurally providing a “light on the land” approach with its unique foundation system that minimizes site grading.
The buildings are surrounded by elevated decking with views into the canyon. The visitors center includes a reception desk, an interpretive exhibit area and a conference room for educational opportunities, along with park ranger and staff offices.
Roll-up doors provide natural light in the exhibit area and extended “outdoor classroom” opportunities. Slanted windows were designed specifically to minimize bird/glass collision, and building materials are reclaimed and recycled where appropriate.
With the addition of the visitors center, park users will be able to learn about all the great places in the park to experience for their enjoyment, recreation and education. As you venture into our beautiful parkland, please be courteous to others and respect your surroundings.
For more information on the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and visitors center, please visit ocparks.com, or follow me on Facebook and Twitter @supervisorlisabartlett. You can also sign up for my newsletter at supbartlett.com.
Lisa Bartlett sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District. She was reelected in 2018.