‘Fuss’ Over Mountains to Sea Trail is Deserved

Private, public interests call for shared responsibility in preserving 50,000 acres of pristine lands north and south of Irvine.

Editorial, Irvine World News—June 2, 2005; News: page 20

Most Irvine residents likely will never trek the 22-mile trail that passes by their own back yards, linking the hills to the coast and representing a connection between pristine lands that range to the north and south of Irvine. Most won’t traverse the entire 22 miles, whether on foot or on bicycles or on horseback.

But all should be invigorated just knowing the trail is there for all and knowing what it represents.

The Irvine Co. went to a great deal of fuss last week, with good reason, to talk about what the so-called mountain-to-sea trails represent – the one along Irvine’s western edge and the two others to come within a year and a half, all bisecting the city.

All who enjoy the outdoors should take notice of the commitment that was made Thursday in a stand of sycamores in Irvine Regional Park in Orange. Setting the gathering of government officials and land preservation advocates at that particular park was significant geographically and historically. The 22-mile trail that opened Saturday begins in the Anaheim hills nearby and cuts through Irvine Regional Park. And the land for the park was donated to the public by James Irvine 108 years ago, the first installment of 50,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch eventually to be preserved.

Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., in announcing formation of a trust to ensure the preservation of the 50,000 acres, Thursday emphasized shared responsibility to preserve and manage the lands for the public.Several speakers echoed the call for sharing the stewardship of the lands among private landowners and some 30 public agencies. Bren also emphasized managing the lands not just for preservation, but to provide more public access to the hills and canyons to the north and the coastal lands to the south. The land is to be preserved forever, restored where needed and opened to the public where practical.

The partners are many – the Irvine Co., the new Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust, the Nature Conservancy, the Bren Foundation, the cities of Irvine, Tustin, Newport Beach, Anaheim and Orange, the Department of the Interior, the state, the county.
There are research partners such as UC Irvine, U.S. Geological Survey, Cal State Long Beach. And there are environmentalists, hikers, bikers, riders, birdwatchers, nature lovers and docents, and volunteers who maintain trails, protect habitats, remove invasive plants.

Public access comes in a variety of ways – early-morning hikes in search of birds and wild flowers and hikes under a full moon in search of bats on the wing; treks on mountain bikes and trail rides; cooking out, camping out and just plain enjoying the view.

The 50,000-acre reserve covers 145 square miles of central Orange County, more than half the 93,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch, with parks, beaches, wildlife, woodlands, canyons, grasslands, coastal sage scrub and 200 miles of trails for the public.

Many residents may not be up to walking or biking the 22-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail in one outing, but know that it’s nearby to try in hops, and think about what it represents.