Bren, Irvine Co. release book on historic Irvine Ranch

IRVINE — The first photo book cataloging the historic Irvine Ranch captures a "sense of freedom," Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren said at a book-release party last week.

The 208-page book, "Southern California Coastal Mountains to the Sea: A Celebration of Open Space Land on the Historic Irvine Ranch," by American West photographer David R. Stoecklein was published by the Irvine Co. as part of the Newport Beach-based developer's effort to preserve 50,000 acres of the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch.

"Some of my fondest memories are of the Southern California mountains," Bren said to various officials and open-space supporters gathered Thursday afternoon under a shady canopy of trees at Bommer Canyon's rustic Cattle Camp. "Whether on foot or on a bike, the open space provided a sense of freedom — freedom which I believe can only be experienced in the midst of nature. And it's that sense of real freedom that we want to share with the people of Orange County."

The book contains more than 150 color photos and was shot by Stoecklein between February and July. It traverses the diverse landscapes interconnecting the 22-mile, mountains-to-the-sea trail.

The trail connects Crystal Cove, Newport Beach, Weir Canyon and Anaheim Hills, a span with diverse geography that includes grasslands, oak woodlands, sandy beaches and canyons.

"The real challenge for me was to capture the personality of the ranch, and the personality of a landscape becomes its landmarks, wildlife and whatever nature has to offer," Stoecklein said before the event. "And to show the people, the community surrounding this massive park, what is inside this massive park and where they are living."

More than three million people reside within 30 minutes of the ranch and more than one million visitors took part in programs last year led by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, the land steward organization formed by the Irvine Co. in 2005.

"This book will help bring awareness to people of what a great resource is here," said Fran Mainella, a former National Park Service director, "and hopefully entice people of all ages to come out and enjoy this great resource."

In particular, for residents adjacent to the park, it can be all too easy to forget what's in "your own backyard," she said.

In June 2010, the last of the preserved lands — a 20,000-acre parcel in the easternmost area of the ranch — was transferred from the Irvine Co. to the county.

The lands are recognized twice-over as a natural landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the state.

"My longtime dream has been for the Irvine Ranch to be known for what has been preserved and protected here, as compared to what has been carefully built on these lands," Bren said.

The book retails at $47.50 and can be purchased at

Proceeds from the book will benefit the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.

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