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Jan Siegel Guest opinion by Jan Siegel

Hope everyone had a great holiday season seeing family and friends. What a difference from last year. But the more that we got to celebrate with each other, the more we got to eat and enjoy foods that we have not had or made for more than a year. So, for the first time in that span, we may find that we have put on some extra pounds. Now may be a perfect time to enjoy the historic walks in our town. 

Although the library is going to be closed for interior refurbishing for a few months, the Friends of the Library will still be offering the Architectural Walking Tour on Saturdays at 10 starting at the kiosk at the train depot. This 90-minute walk covers 200 years of architecture from Mission to Post-Modern. The walk ends at the Michael Graves Library, and even though it will be closed to the public, the story of the library can still be told. Also, the Friends Book Store will still be open. A $5 donation to the Friends of the Library is recommended for this tour.  Group tours will be available during the library closure. For more information, call 949.489.0736.

The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society Walking Tour is on Saturday at 1 p.m. and starts at the kiosk at the train depot. The 45-minute tour includes all of the buildings on the Society property and a short walk down Los Rios Street, the oldest residential neighborhood in California. A $5 donation supports historic preservation for the Society. Group reservations can be made by calling the Historical Society at 949.493.8444.

Walking the Mission grounds is always a pleasant experience. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., general admission is $14 per adult. For further information or a schedule of special events, visit the website at Headsets allow the visitor to hear the story, the culture, and the history of the birthplace of Orange County. 

San Juan Capistrano is unique in so many ways, but one that stands out is that we have a working farm right in the middle of our town. The Ecology Center has taken over South Coast Farms, and every Saturday at 2 p.m., they offer a community farm tour on this 28-acre site. The tour is free to the public. See and learn how organic crops are grown. Following the tour, the visitor can purchase local produce at the farm stand. The Ecology Center is located at 32701 Alipaz Street.

And don’t forget the newest addition to our history. Putuidem Village is located at the Northwest Open Space on Camino Capistrano. This outdoor cultural center is the site of the Acjachemen people who populated this area thousands of years before the missionaries came. The Blas Aguilar Adobe is also the museum of the Mission Band of Native Americans and is open on weekends for exploring. 

Also open on the weekends is the Montanez Adobe on Los Rios Street. The Adobe is one of three of the remaining adobes on Los Rios Street from 1794.

You can spend a “Moment in Time” walking through all of the cultural and historic places. We celebrate our past. We remember our past. And in the words of St. Serra, “Look forward, never back.” The City motto—”Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future”—is always a work in progress.  Enjoy your visits.

Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.

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  • Please also remember to reach out and contact our local San Juan Capistrano Docent Society. They are a great group of very dedicated and hard working men and women Docent Volunteers! They are definitely a group who have a vast wealth of knowledge about our rich historic San Juan Capistrano! The new President is Helen Gavin — she’s a great source of factual local history!

    Also, please take the time to remember one of our most dedicated and greatest town historians, Ilse Byrnes (R.I.P.). Many of us will miss her historical presence, deep friendship, loyalty, caring, support of all of our Capistrano history and historical families! She’ll be greatly missed!

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