RESERVE LANDS $20 MILLION
Donald Bren’s huge pledge to the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve is only part of his foundation’s charity.
By Andrew Edwards, Daily Pilot—May 27, 2005; page A1
IRVINE REGIONAL PARK — Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren picked Orange County’s first regional park as the place to announce the donation of an additional $20 million to county open spaces on Thursday.
“We chose this setting because of the park’s deep historical ties to our company’s open space and historical legacy,” Bren said of his gift to the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve.
Irvine Regional Park, just outside the northwest city limits of Orange, was donated to the county in 1897 by Irvine Co. founder James Irvine. The land reserve, 50,000-plus acres, includes 11,000 acres set aside in 2001.
The $20-million pledge announced Thursday set the total amount the Donald Bren Foundation has donated to the land reserve at $50 million.
Bren, a billionaire who usually keeps a low profile, wore blue jeans, hiking boots and Western-style belt when he made his announcement to about 200 invited guests at the park.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton praised Bren and the Irvine Co. for the donation and work on the land reserve.
She held up the land reserve as an example of “new environmentalism” favored by the Bush administration, in which private interests cooperate with the government to preserve land.
After addressing environmentalists and officials who were invited to the announcement, Norton told reporters federal agencies are unable to care for all land that is valuable for conservation and recreation.
“We cannot do it alone,” she said.
In addition to the donation, Bren also announced the completion of the land reserve’s first “Mountains-to-Sea Trail” and the formation of a nonprofit agency to care for the reserve. Bren said he recently made his own trek down the 22-mile trail, which travels from Weir Canyon to Upper Newport Bay.
Following his speech, Bren said his favorite parts of the trail were portions that pass through wetlands and the Back Bay.
“I’ve spent so much of my life around the Back Bay and watching it in recent years; it’s been preserved so nicely,” Bren said.
The first executive director of the new Irvine Ranch Land Trust is Michael O’Connell, who has held senior positions with the Nature Conservancy. He said that over the next six months, the trust will focus on adding trails, including two more that link mountains to the ocean.