Los Rios Park


Capistrano, California


City of San Juan Capistrano




4.6 Acre Park


2009 CPRS Award of Excellence
2010 APWA Project of the Year APWA Planning Excellence Awardd APA Award of Excellence

In August of 2009, the City of San Juan Capistrano celebrated the grand opening of Los Rios Park. Located in the heart of the Los Rios Historic District, this 4.6 acre park is a valued treasure echoing the City’s turn of the century history and architecture.

Today many of the buildings of that era are still standing, this includes one of California’s oldest adobe, the Montanez Adobe, circa 1795, which occupies a portion of the Los Rios Park site and provides interpretive and educational opportunities. Unique businesses and near-by shops and restaurants make the Los Rios Historic District a destination spot of the locals and out-of-town visitors.

Visual Character

The overall visual character of the Historic Mission District reveals a turn of the century California neighborhood and is considered the oldest neighborhood in California. The park serves as an extension of the downtown area where patrons can enjoy local restaurants and use the park as a tranquil area to eat, relax and reflect. It is an additional destination spot for tourists to experience the many unique mission district business or a respite for those traveling by train. The park is designed to be passive – much like the historic neighborhood. This neighborhood was once the home of the builders and workers of the San Juan Capistrano Mission. The park’s trail system connects Los Rios Road, the Montanez Adobe to the regional Trabuco Creek Trail.

Community Outreach and Input

Initiation of this project was stimulated by community forums, public hearings and many meetings with the city staff and the design team. These workshops illustrated the demand for a park that blended in with the atmosphere of the area while promoting interest, additional space for recreation, safety and respite. The community also wanted a park that was environmentally sensitive and easily maintained. Understanding the needs and concerns of the community, the city and the design team, set about creating a new park that looked old blending in with its surroundings, but still addressed current environmental, safety and access concerns. A passive park with walking trails, equestrian trails, a small tot lot, picnic area and open “pasture” was created. A historical depiction wall was designed to highlight the history of the area and to illustrate notable people of the Los Rios area. A historical garden surrounds the Montanez Adobe educating the public as to the types of plants and their uses. The issue of safety and traffic on Los Rios road also was addressed and solutions added into the design. Using their knowledge as a LEED Accredited firm, the design team used creative ways to implement environmentally sound standards to the grounds and buildings.

“The spaces within the park balance recreation for individuals and families and serves as an extension of the downtown area.”

The Los Rios Park trail system illustrates creative planning and design solution that minimize the potential conflict between the pedestrian and equestrian users. Well marked trail and walkways using two different styles of post and rail fencing, rock edging and various paving material help separate the users. The spaces within the park balance recreation for individuals and families and serves as an extension of the downtown area. Features within the park include picnic areas, arbors, drinking fountains, recyclable trash containers, restroom, children’s play area with swings and large climbing boulders. Custom designed “saddle riders” constructed with real saddles attached to large round timbers provide small children with the next best thing to riding a real horse. Los Rios Park is well themed to harmonize the tradition of the City with outdoor activities that draw people in to experience its natural beauty while promoting interest in exploring this historical area.