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By Collin Breaux

As summer winds down and the season starts to turn into fall, now can be considered the perfect time to spend some time outdoors.

The Nature Reserve in Rancho Mission Viejo is one place you can enjoy fresh air, grassy fields and the day and night sky.

The outdoor preserve in South Orange County is hosting two upcoming community events: a volunteer trail clearing and weeding day on Sept. 24 and an astronomy night on Oct. 1. Both events are on a Saturday.

“Our goal is to connect the community with the beauty and importance of The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo,” Reserve Executive Director Leeta Latham said. “When visitors come out on the land, they all come out for different reasons. Whether it is to recreate, to learn about native plants and animals or to simply relax and recharge in nature, part of our mission is to provide opportunities for visitors to make these connections.”

The Nature Reserve in Rancho Mission Viejo will host a volunteer trail clearing and weeding event on Saturday, Sept. 24. Photo: Courtesy of The Nature Reserve

The clearing event will be from 8-11 a.m. Volunteers who participate are encouraged to bring work gloves if they have those. Participants must be registered by 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23. Signing up is free.

“The volunteer trail clearing and weeding events are critical to The Nature Reserve,” Latham said. “All trails on The Nature Reserve are managed and cared for by volunteers. When volunteers participate, they cut back brush and repair damaged trails, which makes it possible for visitors to hike and explore the beauty of the habitat reserve.”

Volunteers on trail crews also remove invasive species such as artichoke thistle and tumbleweed that otherwise take away resources from native plants, Latham said.

As for the astronomy night, families and outer space enthusiasts who go can expect to hear from volunteers who will share their telescopes and knowledge. People attending the sky-gazing event are encouraged to wear warm clothing and bring flashlights, binoculars and a beach chair.

The astronomy night is scheduled from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Hot cocoa and cookies will be served. Reservations cost $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 8-17.

“Attending astronomy night at The Nature Reserve is a unique and special event,” Latham said. “It is an opportunity that most of us do not get, as many live in urban and suburban neighborhoods where light pollution can limit our ability to star gaze. When visitors attend, they come to our outdoor wilderness amphitheater, where the sky is darker and stars look brighter.”

Having visitors and volunteers exploring and working again on The Nature Reserve after the COVID-19 shutdown has been “wonderful,” Latham said.

“We no longer have any restrictions and have many hikes, walks, day camps and special events available for visitors,” she said. “We are excited to be offering all these events and to have even more visitors discover and connect with nature.”

Visit the thenaturereserve.org to sign up and for more information.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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