A haven for horse lovers within the city

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Roy Rogers and Trigger would be proud. Orange Park Acres is a horse lover’s dream, where equestrians set the pace for this little bit of serenity amid Orange’s busy boulevards and strip shopping malls. It just doesn’t get much more incongruous -- or unique in Orange County -- than this.

What it’s about

Orange Park Acres has some 1,300 houses, 5,000 people and more than 1,000 horses. It was founded in 1928 by a small group of ranchers involved in agribusiness. Horses have always been part of the community. Today, the ranching days are over, but there are still plenty of equine-related community activities, including horse shows, Christmas caroling on horseback, 4-H fairs and trail rides after pancake breakfasts.

“It’s always been about horses here,” said resident Kathryn Lucas. “We saddle up, get on the trail and go.”

There are 28 miles of trails that run through the neighborhood and connect with others in adjacent parks, including Peters Canyon Regional Park, Santiago Oaks Regional Park and Irvine Regional Park. The Orange Park Acres Horse Show Committee stages 15 shows a year, and there are weekly community rides and events such as a fall barbecue. There are also community stables and horse facilities.

When they aren’t taking care of their horses, neighbors spend time -- and money -- taking care of the trails, which are public.

In the eastern corner of the city of Orange, the community is roughly bounded by Santiago Canyon Road to the north and east, Chapman Avenue to the south and Orange Park Boulevard to the west, but some homes lie to the west of that boundary. Some of the community is in unincorporated Orange County.


Land here was used to plant avocados and, later, oranges and lemons. Poultry farmers began raising chickens in the late 1940s.

In the 1960s and 1970s, developers began proposing standard tract homes. That ignited resident opposition that later morphed into a still-present culture of activism to preserve the country environment.

In 1973, a community plan was adopted that specified lots of a minimum of 1 acre and banned new commercial developments. The result, says Seven Gables real estate agent and resident Mark Sandford, is that living in Orange Park Acres “is like being in your own world.”

Although the place is nothing if not horse friendly, not everyone owns one. “We have a lot of residents that just like the rural atmosphere,” Sandford said.

Insiders’ view

Lucas built two horse rings on her 4-acre parcel about 28 years ago. Her two daughters grew up riding on those rings. Now, Lucas’ four grandchildren, ages 1 through 7, are riding ponies there.

“There is an old-fashioned innocence here that we are very proud of,” Lucas said.

Caring for the animals is a lesson for children, she added.

It also shapes the lives of adults who live in the neighborhood. They often horseback-ride on decomposed granite paths adjacent to streets to get to each other’s homes. They find friends and take off on the trails together. Or they meet each other for impromptu rides.

Kathy Ashford and her husband, Walter, own several carriages that their four horses pull in combined driving, an equestrian sport. She also gives carriage rides to neighbors and friends. Ashford, a real estate agent, used to take prospective residents to see homes via horse carriage.

“It’s as unique and rural as you can get in Orange County and, for that matter, in most of Southern California,” says Tom Davidson, president of the Orange Park Assn., which raises money to maintain the trails used for walking and horseback riding.

The horsy lifestyle means that everyone who has a horse has a large bin for manure and pays for daily pickups, which cost up to $200 a week.

Residents who have horses also have the expense and upkeep of automatic fly sprayers that keep the pests away.

Housing stock

The lots and houses in Orange Park Acres vary widely. Most are ranch-style homes, but there are also Craftsman and Mediterranean styles. Prices range from $600,000 to $3 million.

Recent listings include a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home for $640,000 and a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home for $1.8 million.

The homes, no matter the price, are set on ample lots, and neighbors are unlikely to see much of one another unless they are on the trails.

Report card

Orange Park Acres children attend school in the Orange Unified School District. Scores, out of a possible 1,000, on the 2007 Growth Academic Performance Index report were: Linda Vista Elementary School, 885; Panorama Elementary, 912; Santiago Charter (middle) School, 769; and El Modena High School, 770.