From the mountains to the sea, there are numerous places and ways to enjoy the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Many people visit for recreation or education programs, but many organizations offer volunteer opportunities to help people give back to local open space areas. Whether you want to spend an afternoon helping to plant acorns or volunteer regularly to help others enjoy the land, it’s easy – and rewarding – to volunteer.
Protected spaces need public support to remain healthy, and volunteers make very tangible contributions to the community. Participating in stewardship activities such as habitat restoration, weed removal and trail maintenance benefits both the land and the volunteer. In addition to just being outdoors, some stewardship activities take place in remote and rarely-seen areas – unique and beautiful spots in the canyons and ridges of local nature preserves and wilderness parks.
Usually, volunteers meet at a staging area and then are driven to a project area. For many Conservancy-led volunteer programs, participants get to ride in “The Beast”-- a 16-passenger safari-type vehicle with 10 seats in the open bed of the truck. Many participants enjoy the experience of riding in an open vehicle along meandering dirt roads with the wind in their hair.
Just as there are a wide variety of recreational activities, the volunteer opportunities are just as varied. Some activities are strenuous, physically challenging activities that require volunteers to move up and down steep slopes as they kneel and bend to remove invasive plants. Other activities, such as harvesting at the Native Seed Farm, can be done while sitting and require much less physical exertion. The rewards for each type of activity are also unique, from enjoying expansive ridgeline views to meeting new people while you work.
Volunteers who focus their stewardship on trail maintenance directly benefit from their work. Many of the people you find trimming or planting along the trails often enjoy hiking or biking the same paths. They also get the chance to meet fellow like-minded volunteers who share similar interests and who also care about preserving local open spaces.
Some participants enjoy the volunteer experience so much that they train to become certified volunteers. These types of volunteers become trained naturalists, and receive training in group management, public interaction, and other specific skills to be able to help lead activities on behalf of the landowners and nonprofit organizations.
Trail maintenance, habitat restoration, invasive weed removal, planting and seeding are just a few of the volunteer activities that are available for individuals or groups. To find out more about these opportunities, visitwww.LetsGoOutside.org/volunteer. In addition to programs led by the Conservancy, there are also volunteer opportunities available throughLaguna Canyon Foundation, Newport Bay Conservancy, and California Coastal Commission.
There are volunteer stewardship opportunities scheduled regularly, including nearly every day next week. Click on one of the links below to learn more about that restoration project, and to register to participate:
- Monday, May 11— Restore Wildflowers and Wildlife in Limestone Canyon
- Wednesday, May 13— Harvest Wildflower Seed With Us at the Native Seed Farm
- Thursday, May 14— Second Thursday Habitat Restoration in Newport Bay
- Friday, May 15— Be a Friend to a Cactus Wren
- Saturday, May 16— Help Save the Wildflowers in Limestone Canyon
- Sunday, May 17— 3rd Sunday Restoration Day at Peters Canyon Regional Park
For these and most Conservancy-led volunteer activities, please remember that the project sites are in nature preserve areas, and that the group must arrive and stay together in order to participate. Plan on arriving at your event at least 15 minutes before the start time –at the start time, participants will usually be driven to the project site in Conservancy vehicles, so late participants will not be able to enter. Participants must also plan to stay for the duration of the event, as listed on the activity page.
Please visit the individual activity pages through the links above for more information on the projects and how you can volunteer.