Although more than three million people in Orange County live within minutes of natural wonders comparable to those found in national parks, many residents have no idea they exist. Even fewer know that most of the 50,000-acre network of permanently preserved land and Open Space in the heart of the OC metropolis is open to the public.
But now they can experience a picture tour of this vast wilderness—one of the largest urban Open Spaces in the United States—in the Southern California Coastal Mountains to the Sea. The 208-page book illustrates the unique beauty of the land and its history, as well as the significance of its recent designation as a National Natural Landmark.
The rolling hillsides of Orange County, whether layered with native grasses, chaparral or oak woodlands, host some of the most diverse wildlife in the country. Dramatic canyons cradle spectacular rock formations, ancient archeological sites and even dinosaur fossils. Vibrant estuaries shelter thousands of sea birds.
Sandy beaches stretch for miles under scenic bluffs.
“It’s like having a national park in our own backyard. We have a resource of national significance,” said Michael O’Connell, Executive Director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, a non-profit organization that helps manage the natural Open Space on what was once the historic Irvine Ranch.®
The coffee table book, which features more than 150 color photographs, was published to increase awareness of the Open Space and parklands available for visitors to explore and enjoy. Book proceeds will be contributed to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy for their ongoing work to help care for the Open Space which enhances and preserves these ecologically important lands in perpetuity.
“We have such diverse landscape so the book breaks it down into chapters that have their own recognizable character and identity. For example, the Fremont Canyon chapter is the wild back country, whereas Crystal Cove is the classic California coast and Bommer Canyon is the history of the ranching days and future of public access and recreation,” O’Connell said.