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LUKE VICELJA, San Juan Capistrano

I am a sophomore at JSerra Catholic High School, and I live in San Juan Capistrano. I urge you to consider and implement the Northwest Open Space project bid by Pacifico Development.

Having lived in San Clemente for 12 years and relocating to San Juan Capistrano 4 years ago, I have noticed an obvious disparity between the number and quality of parks and facilities available in SJC for children and families. The Pacifico Development bid would begin to fill this void and provide an answer to San Clemente’s Vista Hermosa Sports Park and Aquatic Center. I practically grew up at Vista Hermosa Sports Park, spending countless hours on the swings, playing years of SC baseball and AYSO soccer, attending birthday parties at the Aquatic Center, practicing for my Junior Lifeguard swim test and playing football under the lights. These experiences and memories shaped my childhood. San Juan’s children deserve the same, and the Pacifico Development bid offers this and more: an equestrian center—including a learn-to-ride program and a home for Surf & Turf Therapy.

I became involved with Surf & Turf as a volunteer. I’m passionate about surfing, but I didn’t realize the impact that riding a wave would have on the children in therapy. Their parents told me it’s their child’s favorite activity all week and how much they look forward to that one hour in the water. As I hold their board, help them paddle out, or wait next to them as we wait for a set, their smiles, laughter and joy are testimony to the power of this experiential therapy. I’ve witnessed happiness in children who demonstrate little emotion; I’ve heard exclamations from children who are rarely verbal. These are not insignificant moments in the lives of these children and their families. My affiliation with Surf & Turf Therapy has inspired me to start The Board Room, a JSerra community service club with the mission of supporting local organizations like Surf & Turf Therapy through volunteerism and ocean stewardship. I hope to exponentially share the gifts I’ve received from Surf & Turf and those involved with the program.

San Juan Capistrano desperately needs a modern, affordable, active-destination that serves the community majority and offers services which directly benefit its underserved residents. The Pacifico Development project also considers and incorporates San Juan’s equestrian roots, preserving our city’s rich history while offering riding lessons to those who may not otherwise have access.

Editor’s note: The proposed use of the Northwest Open Space described here will not be considered further by the San Juan Capistrano City Council. Letters in support of the mentioned project were sent before city officials announced the decision.

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