Neighbor creates oasis along creek trail  

​By Andie King

Joggers, walkers and bikers traversing the Santiago Creek Trail notice, to their delight, that one particular section is peaceful and green, neater, and much more well-kept than the rest of it.

Behind the Yorba Dog Park, instead of brown swaths of weeds and grass struggling to survive, a border of rocks is neatly arranged along the path. Well-tended plants, healthy and green, with no weeds in sight, line the path. The young trees here, are budding and thriving, carefully mulched at the base. 

Passers-by wonder who cares for this little garden gem. They will have to get up early to meet the man responsible. This little plot of Eden is the handiwork of Frank Estrada, 85, a quiet and slight, cheerful man with a ready smile.  He begins his day at 2 a.m., with reading and coffee before arriving at the park before 6 a.m.  He loads his red wagon with water, and then pulls it around the fence surrounding the dog park to reach “his” plot. He has lugged mulch from Hart Park, seeds from home, and sometimes purchases a few plants for the garden. He explained that he does “no smoking, no drinking,” so he can afford the occasional dollar for a plant.

Early-morning maintenance workers enthusiastically greet him, as do many trail-users, now friends. A people-lover, Estrada retired from a career as a grocery clerk, and found he missed the interaction with others. His wife, a former teacher whom he lovingly called “Queen Esther,” passed away four years ago, after 54 years together. His daughter and son-in-law now share a home with him, and his son and two grandchildren live in Los Angeles.

He is, he explained, “rich in health and faith” and “wanted something to do.” So, for over a year, Frank has toiled at creating a little oasis for others to enjoy. He carefully tends the plants, moves errant rocks and creates a border, waters the California lilies and mulches the trees before many people are even awake. And then, his job done for the day, he meets his friend for a five-to-six mile walk, then perhaps a cup of tea and a well-deserved nap.