For half a century, preserving open spaces and providing a rich menu of recreational opportunities has been a core philosophy of The Irvine Ranch® Master Plan.
As planning on The Ranch evolved through the decades, greater emphasis was placed on open space preservation, due to heightened environmental concerns, the ecological diversity and importance of the land, and prevalence of the recreational lifestyle. Many of the large preserved open spaces are linked through a series of trails, paseos, commons, courtyards, streets and parks, all of which connect villages on The Ranch to the natural surroundings.
The original Master Plan called for 10,400 acres—or roughly 11 percent of the 93,000-acre ranch—to be set aside as parks and open space. On Nov. 28, 2001, Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren announced a major conservation milestone: More than half of the entire Irvine Ranch – more than 50,000 acres – had been permanently preserved as parks, trails and natural open space. Prized for their scientific importance, much of the lands have been designed Natural Landmarks by both the federal government and State of California.
The Ranch’s open space legacy began in 1897, when the Irvine Company donated to the people of Orange County the beautiful land that today is Irvine Regional Park. That legacy continues to this day. Several years ago, the Irvine Company donated land near Irvine Regional Park to the County of Orange to lease to the Boy Scouts of America to operate a major outdoor education center for youths. The Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center, which opened in 2009, culminated 12 years of planning and two years of construction. The $30 million, 210-acre eco-friendly center teaches children ages 8 to 17, who come from a wide array of youth organizations, about leadership, conservationism and environmentalism through outdoor adventures at its astronomy, ranch and mining themed-camp programs.
Since then, the company has made additional gifts of open space. Notably, in August 2014 the company announced that 2,500 acres of pristine land on The Irvine Ranch was being permanently preserved. The land, near the cities of Orange and Anaheim, had been fully entitled for as many as 5,500 new homes. But in a dramatic expansion of previous land gifts, the company instead directed the land’s transfer to public ownership – a move that increased the permanently protected open space on the ranch to 55,000 acres, or nearly 60 percent of the historic ranch. The gift created a vast interconnected network of canyons in the northern reaches of the vast Irvine Ranch.
OPEN SPACE LEGACY
The natural open space, parks and trails throughout The Irvine Ranch® comprise 55,000-acres – nearly 60 percent of the historic 93,000-acre ranch. A majority of these lands have been designated a Natural Landmark by both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the State of California, based upon a rigorous evaluation of its environmental value.
The Irvine Ranch’s permanently protected open space is home to hundreds of species of native plants and animals and offers every form of public recreation imaginable. It is a remarkable legacy of foresight, and reflects the fact that protecting precious natural resources has always received the same level of thoughtful planning as has the creation of the acclaimed master-planned communities on The Ranch.
More than a century in the making, The Irvine Ranch’s network of open spaces and parks emerged through the Irvine Company’s collaborative efforts with local municipalities, environmental groups, community organizations and county, state and federal entities. The land has been preserved through outright donations, land sales, development agreements and ballot measures.
The land’s sheer magnitude is matched only by its diverse geography, which includes everything from rugged foothills, to undulating meadows, to oak-filled canyons, to sandy beaches.