Updated at 4:20 p.m. June 28 with information from the city's public works department.
Residents gathered in the rural fields alongside Camino Capistrano on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the official opening of the city's Northwest Open Space staging area.
The "open house," which was held across from the included barbecue, live bands and plenty of information about the future of the public space. The crowd ate and socialized beneath a large tent when not roaming the grounds.
Mostly due to the, the staging area is now equipped with water troughs, fencing, picnic tables and hitching posts. In the future, it will be connected to the Arroyo Trabuco Trail.
Residents can access the staging area via roadways by using Camino Capistrano and turning about a mile north of Junipero Sera Road. Community trails also lead to the staging area; which sits near the northeast head of the Trabuco Creek Trail. The Trabuco Ridge and Spotted Bull Trails, which cross underneath the 5 freeway, provide access, too.
San Juan Capistrano has long been among of the most rural and agricultural cities in Southern California. The 2009 purchase of the 116 acres will keep the Northwest Open Space free from commercial development.
Longtime resident and equestrian Dalynn Zampino said the latest efforts to make it inviting to residents will ensure that San Juan stays "rural and beautiful like it always has been.”
“By no means are we afraid of change, but the goal is to keep this town as quaint as we can. I think this is a very positive thing for the community," she added.
Developing trails to the staging area, where horse shows will be held, is among numerous recreational facets that a portion of the large public territory will be used for in the future.
The first phase of the project to better the area includes plans for enhanced hiking trails, biking trails, a baseball field, and a small amphitheater. Kids will be able to travel using various paths from downtown and adjoining neighborhoods, including the trail that extends alongside Trabuco Creek.
"This space is for everybody: children, equestrians, hikers, bikers, athletes, you name it," said Mayor Sam Allevato. "Now we need to get the word out so our residents can enjoy their land.”
Plans are also in place to develop wheelchair-accessible pathways that will run from parking lots to parks. The dog park is expected to feature two segments: one for small dogs and one for larger breeds.
Ecological benefits play a large part as well. Native plants are expected to be rooted around the edge of the space near streets to set up a buffer between serene open areas and traffic. Although an irrigation system is already working, the desert plants are highly sustainable and won’t require a tremendous amount of upkeep as they spruce up trails and parks.