The Irvine Ranch Open Space is more than 20,000 acres of protected wildlands, and makes up one third of OC Parks’ entire countywide park facility acreage. And just like other park facilities, a staff of park rangers is assigned to help the people of Orange County enjoy this spectacular natural resource.
However, with nearly 100 miles of trails and areas of rugged, remote wilderness, a day in the life of an open space ranger is considerably different than a day in a more traditional park.
One of these challenges is finding opportunities to interact with people on the land. In more traditional wilderness and regional parks, rangers can lead nature walks or campfire programs to engage visitors. In the Irvine Ranch Open Space, partners such as Irvine Ranch Conservancy lead hiking, mountain biking, equestrian and stewardship activities on behalf of OC Parks. This provides many opportunities for the public to enjoy the land, but leaves the open space rangers looking for chances to meet visitors. Rangers regularly check the activity schedule, and drop by while on patrol.
“While out checking trails in Limestone, I stopped by a stewardship activity at Dripping Springs,” said Park Ranger Nick Martinico. “This group was volunteering to re-plant habitat, but were interested in the animal tracks they found on the trail. We found some and I identified them to help educate the participants about the animals who frequent the area, and whose habitat they were restoring.”
Knowing about the plants and animals that make the Irvine Ranch Open Space home is part of the extensive training that every ranger receives. Rangers working at all OC Parks facilities have instruction in everything from natural history to emergency response. Irvine Open Space rangers also put their off-road vehicle training to good use, navigating along rugged, steep trails.
Regularly patrolling the land helps rangers assess the condition of facility infrastructure, including trails, which can sustain damage after rain and over time from general use. Since not everyone is aware of the protections in place for this area, rangers also help people understand the sensitivity and importance of the Irvine Ranch Open Space. Some protected areas are adjacent to daily-access areas such as Irvine Regional Park. Patrolling through adjacent regional parks gives rangers a chance to educate the public about their opportunities to participate in the many free, scheduled programs available to help them enjoy the open space.
See some of the many areas these park rangers patrol. Visit www.LetsGoOutside.org for more information on these activities and to register.