This is the story of how the restoration of more than 50 acres of blighted land helped improve and rejuvenate a community.
Choked with man-made trash and invasive weeds, the 53-acre wilderness parcel in San Juan Capistrano was a magnet for vandalism and graffiti. With help from OCTA, nearly 40,000 lbs. of trash, debris, and abandoned material was removed or recycled, and more than 200,000 invasive weeds were uprooted. Species, such as the gap linking gnatcatcher habitat, were restored, and biodiversity was replenished in the blighted wilderness area as some 60,000 native plants and trees were planted.
This is the second of a dozen OCTA-funded restoration projects to be completed under the Environmental Mitigation Program. OC Go (also known as Measure M) allocates funds to acquire land and fund habitat restoration projects in exchange for streamlined project approvals for the 13 OC Go freeway improvement projects. About 400 acres of preserved open space lands will be returned to their native habitat. To learn more about the Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program, click here.
As the project progressed from 2011 to 2018, 90 percent of the $1,500,000 project funds flowed back into the community to local individuals and businesses employed during the project, including Orange County nurseries, vendors, contractors, and biologists. In partnership with the Orange County Conservation Corps, the project also hired disadvantaged San Juan Capistrano Youth who obtained degrees and gained new skills working on the habitat restoration. Additionally, the local community saw a decrease in incidents of unlawful activities, such as vandalism and graffiti, as the project provided the public with alternative modes of recreation within the new and improved public open space.