Monthly restoration improves Peters Canyon Regional Park’s native habitat

An OC Parks volunteer plants a tree at Peters Canyon Regional Park.
An OC Parks volunteer plants a tree at Peters Canyon Regional Park. Staff works to improve the native habitat at the park every month, though the Jan. 8 meeting is canceled due to rain.
(Courtesy of OC Parks)

The new year is a time for restoration, and the same goes for Peters Canyon Regional Park, where volunteers lend a helping hand to improve native habitat there.

“Restoration Day is a monthly opportunity for members of the community to contribute to OC Parks’ efforts to improve the habitat in Peters Canyon Regional Park,” said OC Parks resource specialist Kelley Brugmann.

Each month, park staff and volunteers dedicate a morning to seasonally appropriate restoration, such as planting and watering native shrubs and removing invasive weeds.

“Native plants have adapted to survive and thrive in our climate and provide habitat and resources for wildlife,” said Brugmann, suggesting that happy plants make for happier wildlife.

“A healthier ecosystem in the park provides more habitats and resources for many plants and animals who depend on these areas to survive and provides a more enjoyable visitor experience,” Brugmann said.

OC Parks officials have announced the Jan. 8 Restoration Day will not take place due to rain but expect the program to resume soon.

Peters Canyon is 340 acres that include coastal sage scrub, riparian, freshwater marsh and grassland habitats. The 55-acre Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir is home to waterfowl, while smaller amphibians, mammals and reptiles live along the creek. Cactus wrens, gnatcatchers and rufous-crowned sparrows make their home in the park’s coastal sage scrub and grassland. The animal population also includes mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons and the occasional mountain lion.

The wildlife thrives alongside recreational opportunities in the park, with trails for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. The East Ridge View Trail, for example, is a moderate hike that rewards hikers with a panoramic view of Peters Canyon and the surrounding area.

The park has a rich history and was part of the original Spanish land grant Rancho Lomas de Santiago. During World War II it was used as a training area for the U.S. Army, and in 1992, the Irvine Co. dedicated the land to the county to be preserved as open space, which became known as Peters Canyon, named for James Peters, who farmed the area more than 120 years ago.

Restoration Day at Peters Canyon Regional Park occurs monthly and is open to participants ages 12 and up, although volunteers under age 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The day begins at 7:30 a.m., and parks staff recommend volunteers bringing strong gardening gloves and wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty.

A volunteer with OC Parks plants a native shrub at Peters Canyon Regional Park.
A volunteer with OC Parks plants a native shrub at Peters Canyon Regional Park, part of staff efforts during a monthly restoration day.
(Courtesy of OC Parks)

While waking up early to pull weeds might seem harsh, taking stewardship over our wilderness areas is important not only to maintain areas used for recreation but also for the long-term survival of native plants and animals, Brugmann said.

“Events such as Restoration Day offer the chance to make a tangible contribution to preserving our parks, habitats and wildlife for the future,” Brugmann said. “These events also provide participants a chance to deepen their connection with OC Parks, build community, get outside, stay active and learn about habitat restoration.”

Space is limited and advance registration is suggested. Volunteers can register at

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11:56 a.m. Jan. 5, 2023: This article has been updated to reflect a cancellation of the Jan. 8 Restoration Day due to rain.