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By Collin Breaux
As tourism picks up in San Juan Capistrano, members of the ASAP Community Volunteer Program are ready to help direct visitors on where to park, shop, and eat.
ASAP volunteers are becoming more visible in the downtown area and throughout San Juan as life returns to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Though ASAP originally stood for Associated Senior Action Program, the program is transitioning away from using that exact name while still keeping the acronym, because ASAP is a familiar name around town.
Volunteer duties include helping people at the train depot who may have questions, directing downtown visitors to available parking spaces, conducting bike patrols in the city’s parks and trails to make sure conditions are OK at those amenities, and assisting city staff and police services during special events such as the Fourth of July festivities or Swallow’s Day Parade.
“At the train kiosk, we do that seven days a week. We try to have somebody there most of the day—if not all day, we try to have someone there during the busy times from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.,” ASAP Operations Manager Bill Mase said. “What we do there is basic information. The majority of it is travel information—when things are coming, when things are scheduled, how to get where.”
ASAP volunteers can now be spotted wearing burgundy polo shirts with the City of San Juan Capistrano logo, instead of their previous outfits that resembled police uniforms. The program began in 1992. There are currently 25 volunteers post-pandemic, compared to the 38 volunteers pre-COVID.
As for the park and trail patrols, they serve as “more eyes and ears for public works and public safety,” Mase said. Volunteers look at restrooms there to make sure they’re in good condition and to check that equipment is working.
Though ASAP volunteers can issue warnings or write citations for illegal parking, the program is transitioning more to helping people find parking instead of just enforcing parking rules—a crucial role now that paid parking has been instituted for the lot in front of Trevor’s at the Tracks and free parking has been expanded by Los Rios Park.
“We keep track of what’s going on in the parking lots,” Mase said. “We’re trying to get people to park in the right places.”
Residents can also have ASAP volunteers do home checks while on vacation. Furthermore, ASAP volunteers can access social and legal resources, including an Orange County Sheriff’s Office liaison or Mercy House, when it comes to homelessness.
ASAP regularly relays information and issues of concern back to the city. For more information or to inquire about joining the program, visit sanjuancapistrano.org/asap.