Are there any parks with lights in south OC? A longtime reader asked me this question about Mission Viejo parks long ago and it just came up again in a FB group of moms. So I finally did my research to put together a list.
The simple answer is:
- The two playgrounds at Lake Forest Sports Park are the only ones I know of that are open and lighted on the playgrounds until 10pm. Thanks to the reader who sent me an email and to the staff at the park who confirmed.
- As far as I know, NO other parks in South County are designed with lights on the playgrounds for play at night.
- Parks in the cities of: Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, Laguna Hills, and Laguna Niguel close at sunset (with the exception a few parks in Aliso Viejo that have path lighting and are officially open until 10pm).
- OC Parks regional parks close at sunset, unless you are camping at a designated campground.
Cities with Parks Open after Dark
Some parks in these cities may have “passive” or “path” lighting — but not specific lighting for the playgrounds.
- City of Dana Point 248-3530 (Park Hours: 6am to 10pm, except Shipwreck Park which closes at sunset)
- City of Laguna Beach 497-0716 (Park Hours: Restrooms close at dusk, all parks and beaches close from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. according to Municipal Code)
- City of Mission Viejo 470-3061 (Park Hours: 7am to 11pm)
- City of San Clemente 361-8264 (Park Hours: 6am to 10pm)
Source: City Websites
Should cities change their rules?
Wouldn’t it be nice to feel welcomed instead of feeling like you are breaking the rules? Most cities naturally have sports parks that are already equipped for nighttime lighting and set further away from residences than neighborhood parks. If we are going to give organized sports the courtesy of nighttime play, how about extending the same courtesy to families who are trying to give their kids unstructured play time with both parents present or after working parents get home? Yes, I understand some leagues have to pay for the lights – but not all. For instance, in Mission Viejo “Youth resident (90%) volunteer not-for-profit leagues conducting youth sports activities” are NOT charged for lights.
KaBOOM.org (National Campaign for Play) calls this Playability: “the extent to which a city makes it easy for all kids to get balanced and active play.”
- I think it would be awesome if each city would choose ONE park that it could designate as an after-dark park for families — maybe just until 8pm? And that would only need to happen during the winter months because it’s lighter later the rest of the year!
- Or pick one or two days to leave the lights on until 8pm at the designated “community” park?
- I would propose the following parks in South County as natural community spots for play in the evening hours. These are NOT designated now – just my suggestions as one who has visited almost all the parks in South County:
- Aliso Viejo: Aliso Viejo Community Park
- Dana Point: Creekside Park
- Lake Forest: Lake Forest Sports Park (Yay! already have lights on until 10pm)
- Laguna Beach: Main Beach Playground
- Laguna Hills: Dinosaur Park near the Community Center
- Laguna Niguel: Crown Valley Park
- Mission Viejo: Oso Viejo Park outside the Norman P. Murray Community Center
- San Clemente: Vista Hermosa Sports Park and Courtney’s Sandcastle
- San Juan Capistrano: Los Rios Park
- Rancho Santa Margarita (residents-only parks): RSM Central Park
Do you agree? Would you choose a different park in your city?
How can you make a difference?
I have to say that every single parks commissioner I’ve ever met has been SO passionate about play and serving their community. How are they supposed to know you’d like a place to play after dark unless you tell them? You are a parent and you are the one most likely to use the parks! If lighting parks at night isn’t possible in your city – at least you’ll know “why” by getting your questions answered.
- Send a letter to your local City Council, Parks Commission, or Community Services Director.
- Go to a Parks Commission meeting and speak up as a parent during the public comments portion of the meeting.
- Keep an eye on the posted agendas or newspaper articles for information on meetings where decisions are being made about parks near you – and make sure you share your opinion on any issue that effects you as a resident.
Originally posted in February 2015.