Thank You, Mary Ann Gaido

1280px-Bommer_Canyon_Cattle_Camp01In my previous blog post, Irvine’s Open Spaces, I noted that “One of the best — and most distinctive — things about Irvine is our commitment to preserving open space” and that “The City of Irvine has more than 16,000 acres of permanently preserved parkland and open space – remarkable for a city of our size.”

Much of the credit for preserving Irvine’s open spaces belongs to Mary Ann Gaido, and this past Saturday, August 10, officials of the City of Irvine and the Irvine Company honored Mary Ann for her decades of work to preserve Irvine’s open space and the natural landscape with a plaque in Bommer Canyon.

As the Orange County Register explained, a plaque in honor of Mary Anne Gaido in Bommer Canyon is “fitting since buying the park was her idea.  . . . Various past and present city officials and community members spoke of Gaido’s efforts to create and preserve open space in Irvine. She was presented with a framed historic photo of Bommer Canyon and a plaque was dedicated to memorialize her efforts and the community’s gratitude.”

“Gaido, a former city council member who is now chair pro tem of the city’s planning commission and a board member of the Irvine Community Land Trust, is credited with helping Irvine acquire 10,000 acres of open space and protected parks through her efforts in 1974 to convince the city to buy Bommer Canyon from the Irvine Company, said Beth Krom, current city council member. Prior to that, Krom said, there were no open spaces in Irvine owned by the city. Krom said that the purchase of Bommer Canyon was a precursor to the passage of the Open Space Agreement in 1988, where the Irvine Company transferred 5,000 acres to the city for use as parks, trails and nature conservancies in exchange for being allowed to pursue profitable developments in higher density areas of the city.”

“Krom, who originally suggested honoring Gaido, said she felt it was important to recognize her efforts now because it is the 25th year of the Open Space Agreement. She said that it was very visionary of Gaido to suggest buying Bommer Canyon.”

“‘Open space allows the city to have a great quality of life,’ Krom said.  “Community space and preserving this part of the county has been a community value.’”

“Gaido said she is just happy the land is there for the people of Irvine to enjoy. ‘I’m honored and humbled at the same time to have my name honored with such a beautiful place that’s been there for millions of years,’ Gaido said.”

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mary Ann Gaido came to Irvine in 1968 with her husband and young family and almost immediately became involved in community affairs.  When the City of Irvine was incorporated in 1971, Mary Ann served first on the Housing Committee, and then beginning in 1973, as a member of the Planning Commission.  From 1976 to 1984, she served on the Irvine City Council.

In 1974, Mary Ann was instrumental in the passage of Measures D and E, in which Irvine voters approved millions of dollars to fund public parks and recreational facilities, and to acquire, develop, and improve bicycle and hiking trails.

Among her major contributions to the City’s open space was her suggestion while on the City Council to purchase Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp, which had been the site of the Irvine Ranch’s cattle operations from the late 1800s until the 1970s. Originally home to the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians and Gabriello Indians, the protected open space is believed to be named after a Franciscan brother from Mission San Juan Capistrano who worked with area Indians in the early 1800s. The City bought Bommer Canyon from the Irvine Company in 1981.  Some of the original structures exist today, adding to the rustic feel of the Canyon. Bommer Canyon is also an important preservation area for many local plants and wildlife, including several endangered species.

Mary Ann explained that her goal has always been “to develop the land with respect for the earth. The City was founded in 1971, and the first Earth Day was 1970, so the first City Council had a majority of environmentalists. In fact, when I ran in 1976, I ran with two other councilmen and we called ourselves environmentalists. Among City ordinances that reflect this viewpoint are the required preservation of eucalyptus windrows throughout the City and an ordinance that banned cutting the tops of hillsides.”

The ceremony honoring Mary Ann was itself was an example of how public-private cooperation and shared commitment to planning and preservation have created Irvine’s open spaces and our unique urban environment.  Among those who honored Mary Ann on Saturday was a bi-partisan delegation of Irvine City Council Members – Larry Agran, Beth Krom, and Christina Shea – as well as Irvine Company Vice President Jeffrey Davis.

Thank you, Mary Ann Gaido, for all you’ve done for the City of Irvine and its residents — and for ensuring that we “develop the land with respect for the earth.”

Click here to see video of the ceremony honoring Mary Ann Gaido.