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Open Space Frequently Asked Questions

What is the City of Irvine Open Space Preserve?

The City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve is part of the City's protected natural open spaces and wildlands. It was set aside as a result of the City’s precedent-setting 1988 Open Space Initiative, which was approved by voters. The Preserve is made up of a mosaic of native habitats including wetlands, oak woodlands and extremely rare coastal sage scrub habitat. It is home to some of the most biologically diverse natural communities in the world. The City has committed to protect and manage this land in exchange for creating housing and economic growth in other areas (see NCCP/HCP below). For that reason, protecting the rare natural resources that are found here is a top priority.

The City’s Open Space Preserve is protected for the residents of Irvine and surrounding communities to enjoy recreation and respite close to home, and to experience a piece of California the way it was a long time ago. There are many opportunities to experience the land including hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian activities. In addition, the City’s partner, The Irvine Ranch Conservancy, provides free naturalist-guided tours and programs on a continual basis.

How can I experience Irvine’s Open Space Preserve?

The City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve lands are accessible in many ways. Some lands are open daily from dawn to dusk, and others involve reserving a spot on a free docent-led activity. These programs range from hiking, biking, equestrian, fitness, family programs, and even specialty tours such as bird-watching and night walks. Please click here for programs and free registration can be found. Please visit the Places to Visit section of this website for all open space amenities.

Why isn’t there open access to all areas of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve?

The City of Irvine has a variety of wildland open spaces. Some like Quail Hill, are open dawn to dusk for public access as long as people stay on marked trails. Others, like Shady Canyon, contain highly sensitive natural resources and require that public access be more carefully managed. Quail Hill now offers an exclusive, self-guided audio tour and all you need is your cell phone. The City is actively working to expand opportunities to visit these places over time as planned trails and facilities are completed. These include opportunities for self-guided access and opened to public programs.

What is the Natural Community Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP)?

The Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) is a regional land use and conservation plan that the City participates in and signed in the mid 1990s. It created a regional network of land reserves to protect entire communities of native plants and animals, while at the same time allowing development to move forward in other areas.

The goal of the program is to bring much-needed certainty, both for protection of California’s unique natural legacy, and for economic growth and use of private property. The City believes that protecting, restoring, and managing large blocks of native habitat under the plan is a more effective way to manage development than the project-by-project regulation of years past. It also results in a better outcome for the rare open spaces in Irvine.

The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is essentially the same thing, it is the mechanism by which the federal government permitted Irvine’s land use and conservation program.

How many acres are in Irvine’s Open Space Preserve?

As a result of the 1988 Open Space Initiative and the partnerships it created, the City will have set aside approximately 12,300 acres that are preserved natural habitats and wildlands.

What is the Irvine Ranch Conservancy?

The City’s partner in managing and providing public access to the Open Space Preserve is the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. The Conservancy is a 501(c)3 non-profit, non-advocacy organization created in 2005 to help protect the natural open spaces on the historic Irvine Ranch and enhance the public’s connection to them, while helping partners and landowners with all aspects of stewardship. The City and Conservancy work together through a contractual Management Agreement, under which the Conservancy provides specific, measurable land management and public programs objectives to the City and its residents. The Conservancy offers a wide variety of free outdoor programs for all nature enthusiasts including hiking, mountain biking, horse-back riding and much more. The City oversees the work and ensures that the programs and projects provided are of the highest quality. For more information, visit www.irconservancy.org or call 714.508.4757.

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