Village Matters


Share the Memory, Share the Experience


By Ann Christoph

My little niece Barbie, age 5, was protesting moving the location of Christmas dinner from my mom’s house to her parents’ house. “But we always have Christmas at grandma’s house!” she insisted.  To her “always” was the maybe three years she could remember.  Her whole world, her whole life, was all compressed into those few years.


On another visit home, I was questioning how I felt, now that I was “middle-aged.” “I feel the same inside now as I did when I was in my 20s,” I told my mom.  “I’m still the same person.”  I was expecting that at some point I was going to feel old and somehow mysteriously different.  “I feel the same, too,” she said, by then in her 80s. “It’s just the outside that gets old.”


Perhaps the big difference between being young and being old is that when you are older you have more memories.


Derek Ostensen shared his memories of the Save the Canyon walk in Laguna Canyon in 1989. He was only 8 and his parents had brought him on the walk after soccer practice.  What must he have thought walking along Laguna Canyon Road where he was used to seeing speeding cars and trucks?  Thousands of others were walking too.  Everyone was upbeat, amazed at how many other like-minded people had actually shown up.  Helicopters hovered overhead. There were speeches and excitement when the crowd gathered at a make shift stage at Sycamore Hills. And then, shortly after, in what must have seemed to be miraculous to an 8-year-old, we did save the canyon.  It was part miracle, part persistence and dedication, wise negotiations and the commitment of Laguna voters passing a $20 million bond issue.


What an effect this had on Derek and others of his generation! Another Laguna graduate Max Borella is the new executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation and Derek is its president.  Derek’s day job is negotiating the saving of open space for the Conservation Fund. They are enthusiastic about sharing the experience of saving the canyon with our coming generation. It’s hard to imagine that our new youngsters’ only memories are of a saved canyon and greenbelt. To them it is just that way.


But now we have the opportunity to relive a part of that community coming together, having an enthusiastic unity of purpose. Because all of the greenbelt is not yet saved.  There are about 550 acres of “inner greenbelt,” the green backdrop closest to our neighborhoods, not yet preserved as permanent open space. An open space initiative has been filed with the city clerk that would raise funds to purchase these still vulnerable lands. A petition drive will be starting soon. This need not be an adult only voter exercise and commitment, but also a way to share and build memories with our kids.


The dedication of our community is remarkable and everyone can do a part.  It’s spring. Let’s get out into the greenbelt open space, experience it with the youth of our community.  Then work for the success of the initiative.  Memories and our future are made of this.


Former council member and mayor Ann Christoph works as a landscape architect.





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