Increased wildfire danger has become more of a threat to the Landmarks in recent years, with fires occurring 90% more frequently than natural return intervals of 70 to 150 years. In October 2020, the Silverado Fire burned about 12,466 acres of land in Orange County, damaging infrastructure and natural habitats on the Landmarks. With public activities halted due to the COVID-19 shutdown, IRC staff have been able to restore the damaged infrastructure at a quicker pace, while also improving areas of the Landmarks for future public enjoyment.
During the Silverado Fire, 80% of the Portola Staging Area was damaged, as well as the loss of the Sinks viewing decks and two 40-foot trail bridges in Limestone Canyon. IRC’s Infrastructure and Planning crew have since rebuilt the Portola Staging Area with enhancements, improving the size of the staging area, rehabilitating vegetation, and upgrading public amenities. In Limestone Canyon, the IRC team is planning a complete rebuild of the bridges and viewing decks in 2021, reconstructing the structures with fireproof materials and a one-way trail system leading to the viewing decks for easier visitor traffic flow.
Unique to the Portola Staging Area is the Portola Bike Skills Course, which introduces visitors to mountain biking before riding on trails. For the past year, IRC has been building a new course with pre-engineered ramps, training features, and natural surface features. With the new course 90% complete, IRC staff looks forward to welcoming the public to the new bike skills course once it is safe to do so.
The Red Rock Staging Area has also undergone improvements that brings the area up to date with newer staging areas on the Landmarks. Improvements included a modified footprint for the staging area, ADA parking, an ADA path leading to the staging area and trailhead, and restroom enhancements.
Coming up in 2021, the IRC team will construct a completely new viewing deck along the Overlook Trail in Weir Canyon. The new 24-foot diameter deck will have a 110-foot-long trail leading to an outlook where visitors will experience a 360-degree view of Weir Canyon, Gypsum Canyon and the Cleveland National Forest.
“The Overlook Trail deck will be an architecturally beautiful wood deck with interpretive signage that will give visitors more information about the surrounding areas,” said Maywhort. “This deck will provide a truly unique experience and on a clear day, you might even be able to see the Hollywood Sign.”
Continuing work in Newport Beach’s Buck Gully Reserve, the IRC Infrastructure and Planning team completed a sediment removal project to restrict sediment flow out into the ocean. The process involved clearing a 50-foot-wide spectrum of sediment, redistributing the sediment, and clearing off four gabions so that they can contain sediment for a substantial number of years before the process will need to be repeated.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy and its partners will continue to improve and restore Orange County’s native wildlands for future public enjoyment and protection of the important habitats found within the Landmarks. We can’t wait to welcome you back for public activities when it is safe to do so! For more information about the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit LetsGoOutside.org.