Schools & Trails

Partner Schools

LATO partners with three public schools in San Luis Obispo County. Each school has an associated nature trail that features flora and fauna unique to its region as well as an Oak Ambassador program. Santa Margarita school is LATO’s flagship trail as the LATO program first launched here in 2005.

Santa Margarita Elementary School

Santa Margarita Elementary School (Atascadero Unified School District) is where LATO began in 2005. It is a rural school with approximately 270 students, K-5th grade, located in Santa Margarita, CA.

The school is surrounded by the oak woodlands of the 13,000 acre Santa Margarita Ranch, a historic California ranch owned by Karl Wittstrom, Doug Filipponi and Rob Rossi. The Ranch owners have made LATO possible by entering into a license agreement with The Land Conservancy allowing guided educational hikes on approximately 15 acres of the Ranch just beyond the school yard. Later, the Ranch allowed further educational uses in the way of wildlife cameras and nest boxes distributed over about 40 acres of the nearby Ranch.

The Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail includes ancient valley oaks, blue oaks and coast live oaks as well as gray pines + associated native flora and fauna over a gently sloping trail. The trail includes three interpretive station stops.

The Santa Margarita Elementary School LATO Center also includes:


  • A dedicated Nature Classroom (Room 801) provided by the Atascadero Unified School District. This is used for training Oak Ambassadors and for school science and nature enrichment classes.

  • Marguerite’s Native Oak Community Landscape, located at the entrance to the Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail near the end of the school parking lot.

  • Santa Margarita School Gateway to Nature, located along the H St. entrance to Santa Margarita School, this learning landscape features a monarch butterfly ~ native pollinator habitat and educational signage.

Go Mustangs!

Vineyard Elementary School

Vineyard Elementary School (Templeton Unified School District) includes about 500 students in 3rd through 5th grades. In 2018, Vineyard Elementary School invited LATO as a partner to expand and enrich use of its long established Vineyard School Nature Trail. First class of Oak Ambassadors graduated in April 2019 and have been teaching on the nature trail since then.

Our Morro Coast Audubon Society Education Committee friends played a big role in bringing LATO to Templeton as they are important volunteers at both Santa Margarita and Vineyard. Vineyard’s Nature Trail, approximately 20 acres, features oak woodlands and savannas as well as a riparian area along a section of the Paso Robles Creek. We were super excited to have the chance to complete a U.S. Fish and Wildlife habitat restoration and trail improvement project funded by a partner grant in August 2019.

Vineyard Elementary School LATO Center includes a dedicated nature classroom for Oak Ambassador trainings and future science and nature enrichment classes. The campus is located in beautiful oak countryside West of the small town of Templeton, CA.

Go Eagles!

Ocean View Elementary School

Ocean View Elementary School (Lucia Mar Unified School District) is a K-6th grade school with about 610 students; it is located in a residential area of Arroyo Grande, CA.  Ocean View School 4th graders took a field trip to Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail in 2016 and thus began LATO’s expansion to a second public school. The inaugural class of Ocean View School Oak Ambassadors graduated in April 2017 and began leading hikes on the Vamonos Trail at The Land Conservancy’s 900 acre Pismo Preserve.

The Vamonos Trail includes a shaded canyon with several bridges over a seasonal creek. The trail features beautiful old coast live oaks laced with lichens and a complex of associated native plants, animals and fungi.

Ocean View Elementary School LATO Center includes the LATO Cougar Den, a dedicated space for Oak Ambassador trainings, a LATO mural dedicated in 2019, and an outdoor classroom with a great ocean view.

Go Cougars!