Nature Corridor Unveiled
When complete, the nearly 6-mile corridor planted with native vegetation will create a “missing link” between the Cleveland National Forest in the Santa Ana Mountains and more than 20,000 acres of coastal open space between Irvine and the ocean, known as the Laguna Greenbelt.
Irvine Mayor Donald Wagner spoke at the ceremony, calling the new corridor “a symbol that the Orange County Great Park isn’t just for the people of Orange County. It’s also going to be home to so many creatures that were here before us.” Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea and Councilmember Melissa Fox also attended.
The corridor winds its way through land that’s part of the city of Irvine Open Space Preserve and the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park beyond, in the coastal foothills.
The 2.5 miles of the corridor in the Great Park is approximately 175 acres and nearly a quarter-mile across at its widest point. The land was previously used for agriculture and a portion of the former golf course at MCAS El Toro.
The Irvine Corridor is being developed on city land in the Orange County Great Park by FivePoint, in collaboration with Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., and is important to preserve the long-term biodiversity of native species and protect the natural heritage of coastal California.
“Finally, we can share with other people what we’ve been talking about all these years,” says Elisabeth Brown, president of Laguna Greenbelt, who has championed development of the corridor since the late 1980s and collaborated with FivePoint over the past five years to see it realized.
“What’s exciting and unique about this project is that FivePoint is designing and building a true, natural corridor to promote the migration of wildlife increasingly isolated by urban development,” says Tony Bomkamp, the lead biologist overseeing the construction of the corridor.
The project also creates a new channel on what was once flat ground to support seasonal water flows that nurture native habitat.
A stretch of the corridor will also travel through the future Southern California Veterans Cemetery before crossing under the freeways and connecting to the open space beyond.
In addition to FivePoint, the city of Irvine and Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., the Corridor plan was developed in consultation with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Endangered Habitats League and the Friends of Rivers, Harbors and Parks, with the benefit of peer review by nature corridor experts.
After the ceremony unveiling the Nature Corridor under construction at the Orange County Great Park, a panel was convened and engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about environmental issues facing the city, the state, and the globe.
The panel included Terry Watt, a statewide environmental leader; Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Los Angeles-based Climate Resolve; Elisabeth Brown, president of the Laguna Greenbelt, Inc.; Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO of FivePoint Holdings; and Joel Levin, executive director of Pasadena-based Plug In America, an advocacy group for low-carbon technology and electric vehicles.
During the discussion, Parfrey commented on progress at the Orange Great Park and its communities, including the Nature Corridor: “I lived in Orange County from 1987 to ‘93. I saw the way the development took place in that era. The degree of environmental responsibility that is being exhibited with the transformation of the Marine Corps Air Station is quite remarkable. This environmentalist wants to thank you for that great work.”