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Tuning Into Home Jim Riley and Paul Nagel are two individuals who are committed to being the change they want to see in their communities. While Riley works on native plant restoration in the backcountry, Nagel brings low-cost, healthy and sustainable transportation (a.k.a. the bicycle) to whoever needs one in central Orange County. We highlight their efforts here in celebration of finding the good and building upon it wherever one happens to live.

Paul Nagel The Bicycle Tree

While the coyotes and bobcats, gnatchatchers, verios, pocket mice, arroyo toads and the rest of the creatures of the canyons pursue their hidden lives in the San Mateo Watershed, a volunteer organization performs its work on the opposite side of the county. Led by another local man, 30-year-old Paul Nagel, The Bicycle Tree (www. provides lowcost bike repair and maintenance in the cities of Orange, Santa Ana, and Fullerton, with a core group of about eight volunteers. Since 2005, The Bicycle Tree has set up workshops—at the Victor Manor in Anaheim, the Fullerton Train Station, the Old Towne Orange Farmers and Artisans Market, and the East End Promenade in Santa Ana—serving anyone with a bicycle who needs help. “We’re speaking Spanish a lot, and English,” Nagel says by way of explaining the people who come to The Bicycle Tree workshops. Nagel says that he and his colleagues are “interested in directly helping people,” and The Bicycle Tree is a combination of a shared enthusiasm for bicycles as a means of transportation and an outgrowth of earlier volunteer efforts. “We were feeding the homeless,” Nagel says of himself and his colleagues, “prepping meals and bringing them to the park [in Santa Ana], 12

and that situation brought us together.” Through the direct action of weekly workshops, The Bicycle Tree becomes an advocacy group for bicycle awareness in Orange County. With certificates of recognition from the Santa Ana City Council as well as their local representative in the State Senate, The Bicycle Tree has become a welcome member of the community. Indeed, the officials who administer the Promenade in Santa Ana have waived the fees for the organization’s space. Looking forward, Nagel says he hopes the group can raise money for a permanent shop space. “It’s hard to be mobile,” he notes, perhaps understating the difficulty of bike-trailering the tools and parts necessary to run bike repair workshops. But with their own shop, The Bicycle Tree will be able to expand its operations. “We’ll be able to accept bicycle donations,” Nagel explains, “refurbish the bikes for profit and to give to halfway houses and women’s shelters.” A strong sense of social justice drives the group’s work, and its members have attended the Social Justice Summits at CSUF in 2006 and 2007, as well as many local events involving bikes, fitness, and arts and crafts, including (as of mid-December 2011) a workshop for 30 thirdgrade students at Whittier Elementary in Costa Mesa who received bicycles as part of an after-school fitness program in conjunction with the Newport Mesa YMCA, CHOC, and others. With sufficient funding—a portion of which

could come from a foundation and from individual donors—Nagel would like to run the Bicycle Tree full-time. Considering the potential for a meaningful, ongoing impact in the communities his group serves, one hopes that like Jim Riley and the support that the San Mateo Creek Conservancy enjoys from the California State Parks, some combination of agencies, businesses and individuals will coalesce to establish a permanent home for The Bicycle Tree in Orange County.

Jim Riley

San Mateo Creek Conservancy The gasoline and diesel-fueled roar of Southern California, overlaid with a ceaseless electronic thrum and all manner of human activity, is but one aspect of the life of this place. As the world “above” goes through its noisy machinations, a separate economy, entirely self-sustaining, functions in the San Mateo Watershed. From its origins in the Santa Ana Mountains, down to its shoreline terminus at Upper Trestles, a system of creeks and tributaries supports a dynamic community of plants and animals in the midst of one of the world’s most densely populated regions. Much of the Watershed is inaccessible to the general public as it travels between the privately held Rancho Mission Viejo and the Marine Corps base of Camp Pendleton. But one stretch of San Mateo Creek is open to the public (thanks to the California State Parks and the U.S. Marines), accessible from the southeastern-most corner of the city of San Clemente, at the end of Avenida La Pata, just beyond the municipal dog park. Here, a

Profile for The Ecology Center

Evolve / Issue 05 / Tools For Change  

An eco-journal of obtainable and sustainable solutions curated by The Ecology Center

Evolve / Issue 05 / Tools For Change  

An eco-journal of obtainable and sustainable solutions curated by The Ecology Center