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Photo by Tenaya HillsLike Tony Moiso, scion of the Moiso family of Rancho Mission Viejo, Philip Fraser grew up on a ranch. Although Fraser is a Long Beach firefighter, he still lives in the Cleveland National Forest, just north of the candy store along Ortega Highway. But that's where the similarities end. Moiso wants to build 14,000 new homes inside Orange County's last protected wilderness area, and Fraser wants to stop him.
On Nov. 8, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved Moiso's proposed Rancho Mission Viejo plan. That's when Fraser, along with some friends from Orange County, organized a grassroots campaign to stop Moiso. The campaign begins April 2 with a daylong gathering at Caspers Wilderness Park in San Juan Capistrano.
Although backed by the county supes, the Rancho Mission Viejo plan is opposed by a plethora of federal and state agencies and environmental groups, including the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Department of Fish and Game, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, several of which have joined together in a lawsuit to halt the project. The cities of Mission Viejo and San Clemente have also filed suit against the plan, citing the huge increase of traffic that will congest their streets with thousands of new suburban commuters.
Fraser says he got the idea for the campaign when he attended the Nov. 8 Board of Supervisors meeting and witnessed the supes' yawning through 10 hours of expert testimony against the plan. "Afterward, they spent just 15 minutes in public deliberation before they unanimously approved the ranch plan," he said. "They were just going through the motions and wasting the time of all the citizens who took time off from their workday schedule. It was a slap in the face."
The gathering will take place at Caspers Wilderness Park, Fraser said, because that's the only wilderness area that will be left of the historical Rancho Mission Viejo once the development takes place. "Caspers Park is our only wilderness area," Fraser said. "Once the wilderness is gone, it's gone forever. We wanted to bring the battle to the land itself—the land that will be ecologically destroyed as a result of the development."
The event will start at noon with two hours of music headlined by Elk Thunder Drum, a Native American group from northern California. Several Southern California musicians are also scheduled to play. Fraser said he's invited Kenny Loggins to perform but hasn't gotten a response yet. "We've still got our hopes up," he said.
Following the music, various guest speakers from environmental groups will speak about the need to preserve the land, while volunteers from Caspers Wilderness Park will provide nature walks and presentations. Beginning at 4 p.m., Native American ceremonies by the Acjachemen people of San Juan Capistrano, including a sweat lodge, will conclude the gathering.
"We hope the ceremonies and speeches will help turn people on to the significant resource we are about to lose," Fraser said. "Because Rancho Mission Viejo is the last wilderness area, we have to act now. They say we all need more houses. Well, at some point, Rancho Mission Viejo will be built out, and then what? At some point, we have to build high-density housing like they do in Europe that is more compatible to mass transit. To continue to build out isn't just illogical or poor planning; it's negligent."
Join the grassroots campaign at Caspers Wilderness Park, 33401 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano. Sat., noon. For more information, call Philip Fraser at (951) 609-0552. Free.