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Impact of Unauthorized Trails on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks

Trail signage in OC Parks' Limestone Canyon.

The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are full of important habitats and native wildlife and it’s our job to protect these valuable natural resources. Irvine Ranch Conservancy and its partners, OC Parks, the City of Irvine and City of Newport Beach, work to create thoughtfully planned infrastructure in order to help sustain our native wildlands, while creating opportunities for the public to experience the Landmarks.

When exploring the Landmarks, trail users might occasionally come across an unmarked path that looks like an extension of a trail or a shortcut. While this might seem like an option to continue exploring, oftentimes trails that are unmarked were illegally created and are not authorized for use.

Using an unauthorized trail can be a safety hazard for hikers and bikers, as these trails are not officially maintained and can put you in a potentially dangerous situation. In the event of an emergency, first responders might not be able to reach you as easily on an unauthorized trail. Designated and marked trails are created and maintained for visitor safety, as well as habitat protection.

Creating or using an unauthorized trail damages local habitats and disturbs wildlife in the area. Unauthorized trail users trample and kill important native plants, which reduces the health and resiliency of the area. Since these trails were made illegally and not planned out by local agencies, they are not designed to protect the habitat during severe weather conditions, causing harmful rutting and erosion.

With the help of volunteers and landowners, Irvine Ranch Conservancy uses a variety of tactics to help remove unauthorized trails, such as planting cactus, shrubs or grasses to cover the trail and roping off the area.

Public safety and community understanding are key factors when exploring native wildlands. Irvine Ranch Conservancy and its partners develop infrastructure on the Landmarks with both humans and wildlife in mind. Staying on marked designated trails is one of the easiest ways to help support local habitats and cause the least amount of impact to the environment.

Next time you are out enjoying the Landmarks, be sure you are only using designated trails that are marked by signs. For more information about the Landmarks, visit IRConservancy.org or follow the Landmarks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.