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A Perfect Day for Plein Air Painting

To celebrate Earth Day, artists painted the landscape of the Transportation Corridor Agencies' (TCA) largest conservation site near the 241 Toll Road

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. - April 20, 2018

On Friday, April 20, Plein Air artists were provided exclusive access to the Transportation Corridor Agencies' (TCA) largest conservation site - Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area - to paint natural habitat that is closed to public and recreational use. 

The artists from the Southern California Plein Air Painters Association (SOCALPAPA) and their easels fanned out across the conservation area to paint the broad landscape of rolling hills, grasslands and coastal sage scrub. 

Originally planned for residential development and a golf course; TCA, in partnership with environmental organizations and resource agencies, placed the nearly 1,200 acres of land into permanent open space in 1996. Closed to public and recreational use, this is the first time TCA has opened the property to local artists. 

"This rare opportunity has been a year in the making to provide SOCALPAPA access to such a pristine outdoor setting that is rarely open to the public," said Caryn Maldonado, President of SOCALPAPA. "We are passionate about plein air art and each artist created up to two paintings to show the years of effort and hard work that went into bringing the non-public land back to its pristine natural habitat." 

The conservation area plays a critical role in supporting and providing habitat for the federally listed California gnatcatcher and coastal cactus wren. The site also provides valuable connectivity for wildlife movement between O'Neill Regional Park and Chiquita Ridge to the south.

"TCA is a leading agency in environmental stewardship, restoration and preservation," said Ed Sachs, Chairman of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency and Mission Viejo Mayor. "Investing more than $100 million in environmental initiatives, TCA has set aside 17 locations of open spaces throughout Orange County and the tolls collected from drivers help provide funding for long-term environmental initiatives."

For more than 25 years, TCA has been committed to balancing construction and operation of Orange County's Toll Roads, (State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261), with the preservation of more than 2,100 acres of open space and wildlife habitat in Orange County. For more information about TCA's environmental initiatives, visit

To view photos from the event, visit