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Stronger Radio Signals for Safer Programs

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Enhanced handheld radio signals improve the safety of visitors to the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks during guided activities.

For many people in Orange County, the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks provides a gorgeous escape from urban life – a getaway where visitors can reconnect with nature and spend time outdoors without traveling too far from home. Most people exploring the Landmarks do so during guided programs led by trained volunteers, and many factors go into guaranteeing the safety and success of these activities. Thorough planning by landowners and partner organizations, ongoing trail maintenance, and extensive volunteer training all help guarantee visitors continue to enjoy the Landmarks during hiking, mountain biking and equestrian outings.

Another important factor of guided programs on the Landmarks is the radio communication available to land managers such as Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and volunteers. Cell service in open space areas is not always dependable, and the most reliable form of communication in the open space is handheld radios. To improve the safety of all visitors to the Landmarks, the Conservancy recently relocated two radio repeaters to higher-elevation locations – increasing the range of communication for staff and volunteers during guided activities.
There are three radio repeaters in the Landmarks: the Shady Canyon repeater in the City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon, the East Loma repeater in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, and the Fremont repeater in OC Parks’ Fremont Canyon Nature Preserve. These repeaters improve communication by picking up signals from handheld radios and broadcasting them throughout the entire region. The recent move of the repeaters extended the range in which Conservancy staff and volunteers can use handheld radios to communicate throughout the Landmarks up to 25 miles farther.

OC Parks and the City of Irvine worked with Conservancy staff over the past year to determine the most ideal spots for the Fremont and Shady Canyon repeaters. The Conservancy’s Field Operations department moved the repeaters in June, and relocation took about three days. The Shady Canyon repeater was moved about 200 feet higher, and is expected to greatly improve communication for programs throughout Bommer Canyon and near the historic Cattle Camp. The Fremont repeater gained 826 feet in elevation during its move. Both radios are solar-powered and maintained by the Conservancy; the Shady Canyon repeater is owned by the City of Irvine and the Fremont repeater is owned by OC Parks.

The safety of volunteers leading programs and visitors to the Landmarks is always a high priority. Moving the radio repeaters provides more stable and wider radio coverage for Conservancy staff, and is vital to effective communication among volunteers leading programs out on the land. Additionally, OC Parks Rangers and the City of Irvine’s Open Space Patrol officers also benefit from the improved radio frequency, and will be able to more effectively call for assistance during an emergency situation.

Escaping city life and connecting to the outdoors is a great benefit of visiting the Landmarks. Not only does enhanced radio reception improve visitors’ safely while they enjoy the open space, it helps landowners and Conservancy volunteers improve the opportunities people have to connect with land. Check out upcoming guided programs in Bommer Canyon by clicking here, and in Fremont Canyon here; or browse a list of all activities in the Landmarks at LetsGoOutside.org/activities.