Irvine Ranch Conservancy, a pioneering non-profit managing more than 30,000 acres of open space parks in Orange County, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, the organization has partnered with public agencies such as OC Parks, City of Irvine and City of Newport Beach to connect people to globally-significant local wildlands.
“We started out with one trail and eight volunteers, and today we manage more than 150 miles of trails and support more than 800 volunteers who help provide nearly 2,000 public activities each year,” said Michael O’Connell, the Conservancy’s founding and current Executive Director. “With that capacity, our ability to offer opportunities for the community to connect to and help take care of these public natural resources has grown exponentially.”
The Conservancy was founded in 2005 with initial funding from Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren to help care for tens of thousands of public open space acres preserved in Orange County. At the time, Irvine Company owned more than 20,000 acres of open space, all of which has since been transferred to the County of Orange. The land is part of the historic Irvine Ranch, and about half of the Irvine family’s original 93,000 acres is permanently-preserved public open space. With the Conservancy’s stewardship assistance, nearly 40,000 acres of these public lands have been designated both a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. National Park Service and California Natural Landmark for their biological and geological significance.
“Everything we do is about partnership,” said O’Connell. “Our singular mission is to help public landowners care for their spectacular lands in perpetuity while providing an abundance of opportunities for the community to connect, participate, and enjoy them. We achieve this by managing and restoring habitats and land on a grand scale across tens of thousands of acres, providing a consistent level of stewardship quality and first-rate visitor experiences. We work with anyone who shares this vision of excellence.”
The Conservancy doesn’t itself own any land, but assists public owners with all aspects of stewardship. An independent board of directors oversees the organization’s strategy and operations, and more than 40 employees manage day-to-day functions including habitat restoration, scientific research, trail planning and maintenance, public education and recreation programs, as well as volunteer administration for park facilities across the county. In the last five years, the Conservancy has provided more than 7,000 public activities on the land, and highly-trained Conservancy volunteers have contributed more than 100,000 hours. Community members have also given back to the land with more than 16,000 hours of public volunteer service given to Conservancy projects since 2010.
All visitors attending the November 21 event will receive a commemorative 10th anniversary pin and Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks keychain. The event begins at 8 a.m., and ends at 2 p.m., with a special naturalist-led nature walk at 9 a.m. Pre-registration for both the Wilderness Access Day and nature walk is recommended to guarantee a spot. In addition, the City of Irvine’s new Bommer Nature Garden will be open during the event, along with the pop-up nature center.
Visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities to register for this event, or to find other outdoor activities to enjoy.