The origin of Ladera Ranch is connected historically to the story of Rancho Mission Viejo. This story began 120 years ago when partners Richard O'Neill, Sr. and James Flood bought Rancho Santa Margarita in northern San Diego County (now Camp Pendleton) and its adjoining Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Trabuco in southern Orange County. Collectively spanning more than 200,000 acres and stretching from Aliso Creek (near El Toro Road) south to Oceanside, the combined properties were acclaimed by many as "the greatest of all California 'ranchos.'" Over the past four decades the descendants of the founding families have shouldered the family's responsibilities of land stewardship. Choosing not to break up the ranch and not to sell all the property to the highest bidders, they helped the region manage its growth through visionary community planning and development, which has underwritten the family's preservation of nearly 20,000 acres of permanent open space. They established Southern California's first private land conservancy and one of the nation's most successful wetlands restoration programs. Today, as a result of the family's commitment to its heritage, the remaining 23,000 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo continue as a place where ranching reigns, citrus groves are planted and open space is preserved.
In fact, Ladera Ranch continues this tradition of land management and preserving existing environmental treasures through its well-established park system. Ladera Ranch Sports Park is a 24-acre county regional sports park shared by the surrounding Orange County neighborhoods. The villages of Ladera Ranch enjoy several community parks, such as Wagsdale Dog Park in Flintridge Village, Chaparral Park in the Township District, and Weatherwood Park and Poets Park in Avendale. Soon, 10 miles of biking and hiking trails will be available around Ladera Ranch. The westerly side of the Ladera Ranch trail has opened and the Bluff Top Botanica within Oak Knoll links users to the County Regional Riding, Hiking and Equestrian Trail in the Arroyo Trabuco. This regional trail leads users north to O'Neill Regional Park and South to San Juan Capistrano and Doheny State Beach.
Other wonderful places for recreation include Creighton Plunge in the Wycliffe District?a classic swim Park?and Echo Ridge?home of the Sienna Botanica Amphitheater. For some retail therapy, residents can head over to Bridgepark Plaza on the corner of Crown Valley Parkway and Cecil Pasture Road; Mercantile West, which is situated on the corner of Crown Valley Parkway and Antonio Parkway; Mercantile East, which is located within the Urban Activity Center on Antonio Parkway; and Terrace Shops on Corporate Drive.
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