The great outdoors called to Mark Draper early on, beckoning him to spend his youth exploring the open spaces of Laguna Canyon and the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. As encroaching development threatened to mar the pristine area, the great outdoors called upon the Laguna Beach native once again – this time, to take action and help preserve it.
“It all started when I was mountain biking in the open spaces around Laguna Beach,” he recalls. “I began to wonder how I could give back to the places that have given me the most.”
Fortunately, Draper knew what to do because philanthropy comes second nature to him. His parents reached out to OCCF in 1998 to gain guidance with their own charitable giving, making higher education the focus of the Draper Family Foundation Fund. Along the way, they encouraged their three children to direct donor-advised funds toward causes that ignited passion in them.
It wasn’t long before this avid cyclist, mountain biker, surfer and stand-up paddler embarked on a mission to direct his own philanthropy toward environmental issues. And he began close to home, with the Laguna Canyon Foundation.
“I love open spaces and the ocean,” says Draper, explaining why he found philanthropic alignment with Laguna Canyon Foundation. As a board member and volunteer, he works with like-minded people who are committed to protecting what they love.
Draper says he’s most proud of his work to spearhead trail restoration. Laguna Canyon Foundation works with OC Parks to take a holistic view of the authorized trail system and prioritize the most urgent trail projects. They look for best ways to protect habitat and reduce impact on wildlife. Emphasizing sustainability, they aim to revegetate eroded areas to improve drainage – keeping water off the trails and people on them.
“It’s all about trail design so they are sustainable for the long run and they’re fun for everyone,” he said.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, look to Draper and the foundation to bring tread stabilization, erosion control and habitat restoration to the 5 Oaks trail in Aliso and Wood Canyon next, followed by Laguna Ridge, also in Laguna Coast.
Draper’s other passion – ocean preservation – also gets attention through his work with Laguna Canyon Foundation, as well as his support of Miocean.
“By keeping the green belt natural, we’re also protecting the blue belt,” he said of the symbiotic relationship between the designated open spaces of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and the protected marine area off the coast of Laguna Beach.
The profundity of connectedness is a central theme in Draper’s life. Nearing 50, he not only wants to give back to the environment that nurtured him, he also wants to introduce the next generation to the wild open spaces and crashing surf that called to him during his youth.
“I want my children to have the same experience I had,” he said. “It’s important for them to understand the impact of being outside, not only on their health but also on their overall happiness. My hope is that it inspires them to nurture our local landscapes – much like it did for me. Their passion for the outdoors will ensure our local wilderness can be enjoyed by many generations to come, especially among the competition with television, computers and video games.