2011 NACo Achievement Award

You Can Make a Difference as a County of Orange Volunteer!

National Association of Counties (NACo)
2011 Achievement Award
OC Community Resources

OC Parks Second Sundays Habitat Restoration Program

Begun in 1970, the NACo Annual Achievement Award recognizes innovative county government programs. Awards are given in a number of program categories such as arts & historic preservation, children & youth, community development, county administration, emergency management, environmental protection, health, human services, libraries, parks & recreation and volunteers.

"We are honored to have been recognized by NACo and given the opportunity to share the creative spirit of County Programs, which have been created to enhance and streamline the services we provide," said Chairman Bill Campbell, Board of Supervisors.


Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve (UNBNP) faces multiple challenges concerning environmental stewardship, ecological education, and resource enhancement and management. The Parks Second Sundays Habitat Restoration Program is a wonderful answer to many of these challenges at a very low cost to the County. Taking place on the second Sunday of each month, these three-hour events host more than 100 volunteers. During the summer months volunteers concentrate on non-native plant removal at UNBNP. During the rainy season, volunteers assist with planting native plants and seeds in the ground for habitat enhancement. Trash pick-up and trail work events also occur periodically. These events result in thousands of volunteers annually, working tirelessly to improve habitat for wildlife.

Need for the Program:

UNBNP faced multiple challenges concerning environmental stewardship, ecological education, and resource enhancement and management. Prior to the conservation of UNBNP as designated open space, the lands were subject to grazing, grading, salt works, mining, and other activities that degraded the land in many areas. Considered a “critical estuary” habitat, UNBNP is one of the most pristine remaining estuaries in Southern California. Reclaiming these beautiful coastal lands is vital to support native plant and animal species dependent on the habitat and protection provided by UNBNP in the midst of an urban setting.

With only a small staff on site to maintain the land and limited time and resources to do so, a creative approach was needed in order to scale both obstacles. In an effort to accomplish successful habitat restoration on a larger scale, the Second Sundays Habitat Restoration Program started in June of 2006.

Program Description:

Second Sundays Programs are three-hour events that take place on the second Sunday of each month and host more than 100 volunteers. Along with UNBNP staff, volunteers participate in non-native plant removal, planting natives, watering, trash clean-up, and Butterfly Garden maintenance. They take place under the guidance of staff and no experience is necessary. Water, snacks, and tools are provided to all volunteers.

These events result in thousands of volunteers annually who work tirelessly to improve habitat for wildlife. The goals of the Program are to increase habitat values on degraded portions of the UNBNP by planting and seeding native species and removing invasive, non-native plants. Second Sundays is a shining example of a valuable way to handle the stewardship duties that are at the core of OC Parks’ business.

The Program components include part-time efforts of staff members and volunteer participation that have generated thousands of hours of restoration efforts worth more than $83,000. To date, Second Sundays’ crews have established 6 acres of active habitat restoration sites with more than 7,000 native plants installed and countless non-natives removed.

Second Sundays improves the value and beauty of the land for visitors who experience it today, while also protecting it for future generations. In addition, it provides a feeling of ownership to the hundreds of volunteers who actively participate in this Program.

Results/Successes of the Program:

  • Second Sundays’ restoration sites have grown to cover 6 acres.
  • Second Sunday events have resulted in more than 7,000 plants installed and countless pounds of non-native species removed.
  • Highlighting the importance of volunteer contributions and showing the long-term transformation of restoration sites have resulted in a core of returning volunteers and a host of school projects based around restoration. It also fosters a true understanding of the direct impacts individuals can have on the environment.
  • Documented use of restoration sites by bobcats the endangered California gnatcatcher, and species of concern, the coastal cactus wren and western burrowing owl helped encourage the volunteers and show the success of this Program.

Worthiness of an Award:

The Parks Second Sundays Habitat Restoration Program at the UNBNP is a worthy recipient of the NACo Achievement Award. By hosting Second Sundays, OC Parks has strengthened its role in the community by reaching out to County residents and visitors who were not previously aware of UNBNP and the environmental challenges it faces. In highly urbanized Orange County, many people are unaware of the wilderness areas and recreational spaces available to them. Second Sundays allows residents to connect with the land and feel a sense of ownership through the restoration efforts.

Congratulations to the OC Parks Second Sundays Habitat Restoration Program for the distinguished honor of being selected as a recipient of the NACo 2011 Achievement Award!

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