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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

If you’re interested in one day leading educational outdoor events or want to help square away office work, The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo is holding orientations and training opportunities for prospective volunteers.

The orientations are currently held virtually, but there are plans to return to an in-person format come fall, said Leeta Latham, education and public programs manager for The Nature Reserve.

The training explains the benefits of volunteering and gives a history of The Nature Reserve, a large and preserved outdoor area in RMV. Volunteers make up an integral part of The Nature Reserve’s programs, which include nighttime strolls for families and community members, as well as school field trips.

Volunteers help out during a service day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Photo: Courtesy of The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo

“They might be an expert in their field—mushrooms or birds,” Latham said. “They might lead a program on that.”

Volunteers also get to have a firsthand look at the seasonal and annual changes at the trails and develop a deep connection to The Nature Reserve, Latham said.

“They get to help out local wildlife and protect natural reserves,” Latham said.

Outdoor work isn’t the only thing volunteers can do. They can also work indoors, maintaining databases, Latham said.

Currently, about 50 volunteers are actively engaged with The Nature Reserve, and that number is their general baseline amount, Latham said. The type of people who volunteer tend to be interested in nature and the outdoors but can vary in their strengths and passions. Some might go out on hikes, and others might be great with Excel worksheets, Latham said.

“We get a wide variety of people,” she said.

As for what’s been happening at The Nature Reserve lately, programs are gradually returning as pandemic conditions subside. Some outdoor masking restrictions have been relaxed in accordance with state and national guidelines. The summer day camp has returned, though with smaller groups.

“It’s been great to have summer day camp again,” Latham said.

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

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