Distinguished Environmental Group Laguna Greenbelt Endorses YES on Measure B for Veterans Cemetery!

The leaders of the distinguished environmental group Laguna Greenbelt recently issued a strong statement urging voters to support Yes on Irvine’s Measure B in order to facilitate the creation of a veterans cemetery on the site known as the strawberry fields.

Laguna Greenbelt is a grassroots organization that has worked ceaselessly to protect wildlife habitat in Orange County since 1968. Over the last fifty years, it has led efforts to preserve a coastal wilderness area that is now 22,000 beautiful acres. Today Laguna Greenbelt continues to defend this iconic landscape for the sake of its wild inhabitants and the people who love it.

The Measure B Strawberry Fields Veterans Cemetery site is bisected by the lower part of the “Central Reach” of the Nature Greenbelt, which is crucial to preserving our environmental heritage.

One of Laguna Greenbelt’s major projects has been the creation of an essential nature corridor across Irvine to connect the coastal wildlife habitat west of the I-5, to the much larger open space of the Santa Ana Mountains, including the Cleveland National Forest.

Last March, I had the opportunity to join Laguna Greenbelt President Elisabeth Brown, Ph.D, along with Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner and Councilwoman Christina Shea at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Orange County Great Park Wildlife Corridor.

As envisioned by Laguna Greenbelt, this nature corridor will link our coastal wilderness with the Santa Ana Mountains/Cleveland National Forest and will ensure the health and future of wildlife and their habitat in our region’s 22,000 acres of coastal parks.

As the leaders of Laguna Greenbelt noted, “A cemetery built on the strawberry-growing site [i.e., the Yes on Measure B site] would be bisected by the wildlife corridor, greatly increasing the amount of green space available to the animals. The lush greenery of the cemetery would help support wildlife to feed and mingle before moving on.  In contrast, the original cemetery site on Irvine Blvd is not near the wildlife corridor, and would have no benefits for wildlife movement or encouraging genetic mixing. Animals moving downslope from the mountains that found their way to the cemetery across busy Irvine Blvd would be blocked from moving safely inland or seaward. Surrounded by urban development and Irvine Blvd on all sides, the cemetery would be just another isolated fragment of open space”

For this reason, they “urge Irvine voters to approve the land swap in June, and vote yes on Measure B.”

Here is their statement:

“Last September, the City of Irvine agreed to a land swap with developer Five Point Communities. This moved the cemetery site to land near the Spectrum V development and the I-5/I-405 interchange. The gently sloping new site is currently being used as agricultural land to grow strawberries. In exchange, the city deeded over the parcel along Irvine Blvd, where the cemetery was originally planned. After the land swap was completed, the City deeded the new site to the State of California, which is responsible for building the cemetery.

There is now controversy over whether the land swap is in the best interest of the City of Irvine. Political squabbles aside, Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., would like the public to consider the land swap’s merits through the lens of land use principles, open space preservation, and wildlife movement.

Representatives of Laguna Greenbelt, FivePoint, and the City of Irvine at the groudbreaking for the Great Park Nature Corridor in March 2018.

Our grassroots organization has been working with the City of Irvine since before 2000, and since 2012 also with the developer Five Point Communities, to design and complete an essential wildlife corridor across Irvine to connect coastal wildlife habitat west of the I-5, to the much larger open space of the Santa Ana Mountains (including Cleveland National Forest). This wildlife corridor, that we have come to call the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor, is currently taking shape on the only possible route that will ensure that the coastal wild lands, including Shady and Bommer Canyons, and several other parks and preserves, will not wither and die over time (ecologically speaking), throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars that the community has invested over the many decades it took to set aside and manage our parks and preserves.

In mid-March, as a community, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the last stretch of the wildlife corridor between the Santa Ana Mountains and the coastal open space. In short, it’s a dating corridor for wildlife, at a time when they are increasingly isolated from one another by multi-lane roadways and urban development.

The event was important; the corridor is about 6 miles long, and the stretch under construction will be almost half of that, as it crosses Irvine between Irvine Blvd and the I-5. The so-called Great Park stretch will be entirely on the former Base, but not near the park. Instead, it will be adjacent to future urban development around the park on the East side, and, depending on the June fifth vote, it might meet the Veterans Cemetery.

When considering land uses that will be neighbors of habitat and wildlife corridors, it’s clear that some are better than others. Animals exploring for food, cover, and water are spooked and avoid moving towards noisy areas with human activity, lights, cars, unfamiliar smells, and domestic pets. Land uses that are quiet at night and minimize human activity near a wildlife corridor are favorable for animals moving through the area, allowing them to continue on their journeys.

In general, a cemetery is one of the best complementary land uses for natural areas and wildlife; a dark and quiet place at night, when many animals are active. However, in real estate, it’s all about the location, and one of the sites proposed for the Veterans Cemetery is much better than the other for animals traveling along the corridor.

A cemetery built on the strawberry-growing site would be bisected by the wildlife corridor, greatly increasing the amount of green space available to the animals. The lush greenery of the cemetery would help support wildlife to feed and mingle before moving on.

In contrast, the original cemetery site on Irvine Blvd is not near the wildlife corridor, and would have no benefits for wildlife movement or encouraging genetic mixing. Animals moving downslope from the mountains that found their way to the cemetery across busy Irvine Blvd would be blocked from moving safely inland or seaward. Surrounded by urban development and Irvine Blvd on all sides, the cemetery would be just another isolated fragment of open space.

The health and future of wildlife and their habitat in 22,000 acres of coastal parks rides on the success of the wildlife corridor. The land swap supports the bottom line, too: In sheer dollars, so much has been invested in our public lands, don’t we want to protect our investment? We urge Irvine voters to approve the land swap in June, and vote yes on Measure B.”

Learn more about the Coast to Cleveland Corridor here.

You can watch a video on the Great Park Nature Corridor here.

Elisabeth M. Brown, PhD is a biologist and the president of Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. She has resided in Orange County for 51 years. Elisabeth’s involvement in managing local wildlands has included founding roles in the Nature Reserve of OC and the Coastal Greenbelt Authority.

Gabriela Worrel is the outreach coordinator at Laguna Greenbelt, Inc and a freelance writer. She is a Southern California native currently living in Los Angeles, and holds degrees in biology (Westmont College) and urban planning (UC Irvine).

To learn more about why it is so important to Vote YES on Measure B, please see:

Vote YES on Measure B on June 5 for an OC Veterans Cemetery!

Putting Politics Aside to Honor Veterans with a Final Resting Place

Stop Playing Political Games with Veterans Cemetery

Stop the Politics and Build the Veterans Cemetery Now

Irvine Takes Historic Step Forward for a Veterans Cemetery at the Former El Toro Marine Base

Tell the Irvine City Council to Keep Your Promises to Our Veterans

The Strawberry Fields Site is the Best Location for the Veterans Cemetery. Now Let’s Get it Done!

Don’t Be Deceived By The “Save The Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

OC Register Slams Agran, Lalloway, and “Despicable,” “Misleading” Veterans Cemetery Petition

Help Us Defeat the Paid Mercenaries who have Invaded Irvine and their Fraudulent “Save the Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I am proud to have participated in making sure that Orange County’s veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – will at last have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

Please help by voting YES on Measure B!

Thank You Ebell Club of Irvine for Jeffrey Open Space Trail Botanical Signs!

Jeffrey Open Space Trail, Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissajoifox, melissafoxblog.com

Thank you to the Ebell Club of Irvine for donating and installing botanical signs along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail!

Working in concert with the city of Irvine, the Ebell Club of Irvine recently installed nine additional botanical signs along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail – a landscaped, grassy area that currently runs along Jeffrey Road from Trabuco to Irvine Boulevard.

Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissajoifox, melissafoxblog.com

Ebell Club of Irvine members Anne Schorr, Joann Coover, and Barbara Reynolds with botanical signs and the installers at the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.

Along the paved trail are periodic wide spots with plaques that chronicle the history of the Irvine Ranch. Plants native to the Irvine region have been planted throughout the park.

Shortly after the trail opened, the Ebell Club of Irvine began working with the city of Irvine to install botanical signs along the pathways.

To date, 33 signs have been installed in the park area between Trabuco Road and Irvine Boulevard.

The next portion of the trail, scheduled to open later this year, will reach from Trabuco Road to I-5. Club members are continuing to recycle aluminum cans in order to raise funds for additional signs. They are also inviting other Irvine service organizations and community members to become sign sponsors for the plants in the new portion.

Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissajoifox, melissafoxblog.com

Botanical marker placed on the Jeffrey Open Space Trail by the Ebell Club of Irvine.

A botanical sign costs about $50 to purchase and $30 to install. Each sponsor will be identified at the bottom of the sign.

Anyone interested in sponsoring a sign should contact Barbara Reynolds, conservation chairwoman, at 949-559-1545.

The Ebell Club of Irvine was organized on March 5, 1974, and is a proud member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.  Honoring the motto of Unity in Diversity, the Club comes together as unique individuals dedicated to community improvement through activities and fund-raising projects.  Their mission is to enhance the lives of others in Irvine through volunteer service.

Meeting are held on the first Tuesday of each month, September through June, at 6:30 PM.  For more information, call 714-832-0791.

The Jeffrey Open Space Trail (JOST) is a unique resource for the residents of the City of Irvine. This open space corridor constitutes an important element in the City’s overall Open Space system, linking the conservation and open space lands within the City. The trail will travel approximately five miles through Irvine, from just past Portola Parkway in the north to the Quail Hill open space in the south. Currently, the section from Trabuco to Irvine Blvd. (section 2) is completed. Construction of sections 1 and 3 is currently underway. The JOST provides a key linkage extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana Mountains and Cleveland National Forest. The Jeffrey Open Space Trail Community Consensus Plan focuses specifically on the portion of the Spine extending from Interstate 5 to the Natural Communities Conservation Plan Lands north of Portola Parkway.

For more information about the Jeffrey Open Space Trail, see the Jeffrey Open Space Spine Community Consenus Plan (2003) (PDF).

Photo credits:

Top photo: Ellen Bell. Other photos: Anne Schorr. Used with permission.