By Sentry Staff
The County Board of Supervisors extended the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s (IRC) contract to June 30, 2019, at a cost not to exceed $3,167,297.86 in the first year.
IRC manages the open space in East Orange County that was donated by the Irvine Company’s Donald Bren to be preserved, in perpetuity, in its natural state.
In 2010, the board accepted 20,000 acres of protected open space land from the Irvine Company, subject to the requirements of existing conservation easements and habitat conservation plans.
Critical to the adaptive management of the donated land, is the ongoing monitoring and documentation of protected species of flora and fauna, a continuous evaluation of the impacts of public access and infrastructure on the viability of those species and the ecosystem as a whole.
Many of the natural resource management activities necessary to meet the county’s obligations require specialized training, education and expertise. The county determined that IRC was uniquely qualified to oversee the area because it had been responsible for the same acreage on behalf of The Irvine Company, prior to he transfer of ownership to the county.
IRC’s work consists of visitor services and public programs; volunteer training, management and deployment; communications and public outreach; natural resource management and monitoring; and planning, infrastructure and operations. OC Parks is responsible for overall policy direction and strategic planning, public safety and enforcement, and non-routine or significant maintenance activities.
Bren donated an additional 2,500 acres to the county in 2014. That land includes Gypsum Canyon and open space in East Orange, adjacent to the previous donation. It is encumbered with conservation easements held by the Orange County Parks Foundation. The renewed contract expands IRC’s oversight to include that acreage.
During the first three-year term of the contract, IRC, working in partnership with OC Parks, provided public programs for over 30,000 people; improved the volunteer program with online management and enhanced trainings; expanded the Orange County Fire Watch Program, and restored 1,300 acres of habitat.
Potential projects that OC Parks and IRC anticipate during the next three years may include staging area improvements at Augustine and Black Star; improvements along the Water Works, Canyons Nature, Baker Interpretive and Overlook Trails; and design and construction of the Hicks viewing deck.