Bren Donates $20 Million; Envisions ‘World-Renowned’ Park


By Jeff Rowe, Orange County Register —May 27, 2005, News 1

Three trails connecting the Cleveland National Forest to the ocean are focal points of an Irvine Co. plan to preserve 50,000 acres of the old Irvine Ranch.

bren_gail_nortonCompany Chairman Donald Bren announced Thursday that the Bren Foundation will donate $20 million to the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust to expand access to the area, the largest portions encompassing Weir, Fremont and Limestone Canyons to the north, Shady and Bommer Canyons in the south and the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

The first trail, called “Mountains-to-Sea,” runs from Weir Canyon all the way to Newport Coast.

Portions of the trail were completed years ago, but the Irvine Co. worked with five cities – Irvine, Newport Beach, Tustin, Orange and Anaheim – and the county to link all the segments.

The other two planned trails will straddle the planned Great Park and also run from the mountains to the sea. Bren said he wants those trails opened within 18 months.

mtn2sea_trailbikesU.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton joined Bren at the ceremony to laud the public-private partnership that Bren has created in opening Irvine Co. land to permanent public use. She said the trust Bren created is a “tremendous example” of the Bush administration’s view that new public parks in the United States must be partnerships that draw together government, conservation groups and businesses. The Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust represents a “shining example of cooperative conservation,” she said.

Bren asked the elected officials and conservation leaders gathered at Irvine Regional Park on Thursday to join him in an “unwavering commitment to ensure that this precious land is managed, improved and enjoyed forever.”

Bren’s latest donation brings to $50 million the contributions to the reserve by the Bren Foundation. The money will be spent to cut 30 new trails, some as long as 17 miles.

“I believe we can create a world-renowned park, restored and managed to standards that inspire others,” he said.

bike_trailAlthough some are wary of entanglements with business, representatives of conservation groups liked what they saw in the land reserve.

“It’s a great concept,” said Tom Croom, president of the Sea and Sage chapter of the Audubon Society.

Mike O’Connell, executive director of the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust, noted that the reserve is bigger than 75 percent of the properties in the National Park system, including Bryce Canyon. The reserve was formed in 1897 by James Irvine.

Bren said expansion of the trails through the reserve is his “personal passion.”

On Saturday, the trust, the company and other conservation groups will celebrate completion of the Mountains- to-Sea trail by setting up refreshment stations at four places along the trail.

Depending on the time of day and luck, hikers and bicyclists may see bobcats, snakes, bats and a variety of birds.