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Irvine Ranch landmarks reopen for Wilderness Access Days

A couple walks their dog as they enter Black Star Canyon from the trailhead in Silverado.
A couple walks their dog as they enter Black Star Canyon from the trailhead in Silverado. Irvine Ranch’s natural landmarks reopened on Saturday, July 10 for Wilderness Access Days.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Nature lovers can now return to the natural landmarks of Irvine Ranch with Wilderness Access Days, which had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy, along with OC Parks and the city of Irvine, reopened the free public events last weekend with a public hike in Black Star Canyon.

“Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff, volunteers and partners are excited to welcome visitors back to experience the beauty of the Landmarks,” Dave Raetz, the conservancy’s vice president and chief operating officer, said in a press release. “Throughout the pandemic, IRC staff and land owners worked diligently to restore and preserve local trails and natural habitats, so they would be ready for nature lovers to enjoy once again.”

The natural landmarks of the Irvine Ranch include the 5,500-acre Limestone Canyon — home of the “mini Grand Canyon” called the Sinks, the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary — one of the region’s largest freshwater marshes and the tide pools of Crystal Cove, among many others.

A hiker walks her dog at Black Star Canyon in Silverado.
A hiker walks her dog at Black Star Canyon in Silverado.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“The magnificent open space, parks and recreational opportunities on the Irvine Ranch provide natural beauty, relief from development and secure our unique Southern California outdoor lifestyle,” Donald Bren, founder of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, said on the nonprofit’s website. “Residents of the communities on the historic Irvine Ranch have a better sense of their urban limits and the security of knowing these large green buffers around them will exist forever.”

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy, initially funded by Bren, has managed open space in Orange County — primarily in Irvine and Newport Beach — through its 15-year history.

Hikers stroll along a trail at Black Star Canyon in Silverado.
Hikers stroll along a trail at Black Star Canyon in Silverado.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The conservancy has restored about 250 acres of land so far and manages about 30,000 acres in Orange County. The conservancy also plays a role in preventing fires around the county.

As experts predict another historically bad fire season in California, Orange County Fire Watch is preparing to prevent fires before they grow into massive blazes that can threaten homes and wildlife. O.C. Fire Watch is managed by Irvine Ranch Conservancy for O.C. Parks and the cities of Irvine and Newport Beach.

For more information about Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, or to register for a Wilderness Access Day, visit LetsGoOutside.org.

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