If you’ve driven the 241 Toll Road at or near Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita, you’ve seen Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area (UCCCA); you probably even smiled to admire such a rare sight – open space in Orange County.
UCCCA is the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) largest mitigation site. At 1,158 acres, seven Disneyland’s could fit within its boundaries.
Here, you’re surrounded by rolling hills of coastal sage scrub, patches of Prickly Pear Cactus, tiny coastal California Gnatcatchers, and families of deer.
TCA’s Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area was originally planned for residential development and a golf course; however, in 1996, TCA, in partnership with environmental organizations and the resource agencies, placed the nearly 1,200 acres of land into permanent open space. Conservation of UCCCA plays a critical role in supporting and providing habitat for the federally listed California gnatcatcher and coastal cactus wren. The site also provides valuable connectivity for wildlife movement between O’Neill Regional Park and Chiquita Ridge to the south.
The next time you drive The Toll Roads (State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261), enjoy the view (and the perks of congestion-free travel!). Most of the slopes and hills adjacent to The Toll Roads were planted with native habitat to blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. Thriving native plants have been weaned off supplemental water and fertilizer for decades.
UCCCA is just one of TCA’s 17 open spaces that have been conserved over the past 25 years. Check back soon to see what happens when we provide exclusive access to UCCCA to nearly 40 Plein Air artists to celebrate Earth Day. We can’t wait to see what vibrant and colorful news this spring will bring!