Watch Melissa Fox’s ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Director Mike O’Connell!

I’ve always been an outdoors person, and I love going hiking and exploring in Southern California’s beautiful wild lands, mountains, and deserts.  Long before I entered politics, I served as a volunteer Ranger with the Orange County Park Ranger Reserve.  This past week, I had the pleasure of talking with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director Michael O’Connell last week during a ZOOM meeting Town Hall.  

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization, committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship. Based in Orange County, California, the mission of the IRC is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy President and Executive Director, oversees all aspects of stewardship, public programs and business operations for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. He has 25 years experience in land protection and conservation science including senior positions with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He has served on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Advisory Board of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Michael has co-authored two books on conservation and a number of scientific and popular articles. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Carleton College and a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

After we talk about the history and the special character of this incredible land, Mike leads us on a tour of this incredible natural resource in our backyard.

 Watch our Town Hall on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy here:

Join Melissa Fox’s ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Director Mike O’Connell. Thurs., May 14 at 4:00 PM!

Join Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox in a ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director Mike O’Connell

Thurs., May 14, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m.

ZOOM Meeting ID 951-321-0807

Note: We will also be streaming live from Melissa Fox’s YouTube Channel HERE.

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization, committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship.

Based in Orange County, California, the mission of the IRC is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy President and Executive Director, oversees all aspects of stewardship, public programs and business operations for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. He has 25 years experience in land protection and conservation science including senior positions with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He has served on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Advisory Board of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Michael has co-authored two books on conservation and a number of scientific and popular articles. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Carleton College and a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Melissa Fox has been a member of the Irvine City Council since 2016. She is life-long hiker, outdoors person, and fierce environmental advocate. She also served as a Ranger in the Orange County Park Ranger Reserve.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org

To see the Facebook event for this Town Hall, click here.

UPDATED: Watch the ZOOM Town Hall with Mike O’Connell here.

We look forward to you joining us!

Irvine History Happy Hour: The Portola Expedition

You are invited to join the Irvine Historical Society on Sunday, March 24, from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. for an engaging and fun “Let’s Talk History” Happy Hour.

The topic this month is Gaspar de Portola and the Year 1769.

Did you know that the Portola expedition was motivated in part by expelling the Jesuits from Alta California and replacing them with Franciscans?

Did you know that of the original 219 men of the Portola expedition who left Baja California for the north on three ships, only about 100 survived to begin their journey from San Diego to Monterey?

Did you know that the Santa Ana River was originally called Río de los Temblores because Portola and his expedition experienced an earthquake while they were camped there?

Did you know that the Portola expedition arrived in what is now Irvine on July 26, 1769?

Did you know that we have fairly detailed information about the expedition because Portola and Father Juan Crespi kept diaries of the journey, and the expedition’s engineer, Miguel Constanso, later wrote up an official narrative of the trek?

You can learn more fascinating details about Gaspar de Portola, Father Junípero Serra, and their expedition, at the Irvine History Happy Hour on March 24.

Light refreshments will be served. A $5 donation is requested.

The Irvine Historical Society is located in the San Joaquin Ranch House, commissioned by James Irvine in 1868 and considered the oldest standing structure within the original boundaries of Irvine Ranch.

Standard hours of operation are Tuesday and Sunday from 1 to 4; closed holidays. Members are free; a $1.00 donation per non-member is appreciated.

One-hour walking tours of Old Town Irvine are available on the first Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m. Free for members; $5 for non-members.

Help Bring a Natural History Museum to the Great Park!

I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park  — a new 80,000 square-foot ice arena, a 1200-seat Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium and new additional baseball and softball fields, a 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium, a 2.5 mile nature corridor, plus an agreement with Wild Rivers to build a new water park — the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace.

To me, the Great Park Cultural Terrace needs a natural history museum, showcasing the natural history of our area.

In fact, while Orange County is the only county in Southern California that does not have a natural history museum, Orange County is already home to a fabulous collection of fossils and artifacts in the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, now located in several warehouses in Santa Ana.

This rich history of fossils and artifacts, perhaps one of the most important fossil-bearing areas in North America, if not the world, needs to be curated and displayed.

Importantly, the stories and history of the Juaneno/Acjachemen and Gabrielino/Tongva — our County’s indigenous people — needs to be told!

I recently had the opportunity to tour the Cooper Center for a second time, this time with our new Irvine City Manager John Russo and Assistant City Manager Marianna Marysheva.

The rocks of Orange County contain the fossilized remains of plants and animals from every major time period since the Jurassic – over 180 million years of prehistory! At this point, only a small fraction of the collection has been inventoried – about 20,000 specimens out of an estimated 3,000,000 or more from over 1,000 localities.

Notable collections include: Eocene terrestrial mammals; late Oligocene-early Miocene terrestrial mammals; and Miocene-Pliocene marine mammals.

The Cooper Center’s archaeological holdings range in age from at least 12,000 years ago until historic times, including materials from all areas and environmental zones throughout the County including the coast, major and minor rivers, and foothill zones.

Sites from these various areas include, but are not limited to, villages, fishing, milling activities associated with acorn and hard seed processing, and stone tool manufacture.

Some of the artifact types recovered from these sites include cogstones, metates and manos, mortars and pestles, shell beads, hammerstones, projectile points, scrapers, incised stone and pottery sherds. Historical artifacts from the last century include glass bottles and toys. The artifacts held by the Cooper Center are the most extensive collection of Orange County history and prehistory anywhere and they provide archaeologists with a comprehensive view of what life was like in Orange County.

Unfortunately, this fabulous collection is not now open to the public. Although a county ordinance and federal preservation laws require that fossils, mostly uncovered by construction, be saved and kept in the county they were found, for the “benefit and inspiration of the public”.

Our county’s rich store of fossils and artifacts cannot now be displayed, and are warehoused out of sight of the public. This collection ought to be open to all in a magnificent museum – a new Orange County Natural History Museum in the Great Park!

You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organization that is working toward a natural history museum in the Great Park:

California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA)
Website: http://www.ccrpa.com/
Facebook: Click here.

You can contact the Irvine City Council/Great Park Board and tell them you want a natural history museum in the Great Park.

You can also help by signing a petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.

 

Thanks!

Join Me for the Grand Opening of Portola Springs Community Park and Center!

Join me at the Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony of Portola Springs Community Park and Center on Saturday, January 26, 2019, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The 32-acre Portola Springs Community Park features a nature-themed playground, native garden, two lighted softball fields, two lighted soccer fields, one warm-up field, one sand volleyball court, six lighted pickleball courts, three lighted tennis courts, and a concession building.

It also features an expansive community center (more than 14,000 square feet), including a multipurpose room, large patio area, two classrooms, and a Native American Wing.

The dedication event will include:

  • Self-guided tours of the facility
  • Cultural display in the Native American Wing
  • Light refreshments
  • Pickleball courts open for play
  • Softball demonstrations by Irvine Girls Softball Association
  • Entertainment by Concerts for Charities Club, which includes a string quartet, piano quintet, violin and piano duet, and saxophone quartet made up of students from Trabuco Hills, Northwood, and Portola high schools

I am especially excited about the Center’s Native American Wing, which was a combined effort of City staff, representatives of our local Native American tribes, the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance and the Irvine Company.

The Portola Spring Community Center will be open to the public from 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Classes at the center will be available beginning in February, and programming will include after-school and camp activities as well as recreational activities and sports programs.

Portola Springs Community Park and Center are located at 900 Tomato Springs, Irvine, CA 92618.

No RSVP is needed for this free event.

For more information, visit cityofirvine.org/specialevents or call 949-724-6192.

See you there!

Great Park Update: We’re Creating a Truly Great Park!

As anyone who has followed the history of the Orange County Great Park knows, its development has not always been smooth or something to be proud of.

In fact, for far too many years, the Great Park was a symbol of gross mismanagement and government gone very wrong, with allegations of corruption and massive waste, and with little to nothing to show for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of public dollars except a balloon, a carousel, and great expanses of dirt, dust, and debris.

However, since I have joined the Irvine City Council — and been appointed Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park by my colleagues — we have succeeded in making a tremendous, positive turn-around in the Great Park’s development.  Real, substantial, and exciting progress has been made.

As the Orange County Register recently wrote, ” If you haven’t visited the Orange County Great Park – where you see that big orange balloon from Interstate 5 – in the past few years, you may be surprised by the amount of construction going on and how quickly things are getting built there.”

We are now fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park that all of us can feel proud of and enjoy!

Here are some of things we’ve already accomplished:

  • Groundbreaking for new Anaheim Ducks’ 270,000 square-foot community ice skating and practice facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
  • Opened new 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park, the largest of its kind in Orange County — larger than Disneyland and Disney California Adventure combined.
  • Great Park Sports Complex presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
  • Great Park Championship Stadium became home of Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team and official affiliate partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS). Orange County SC is a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the fastest growing Division II professional soccer league in the world comprised of 34 teams across the United States.
  • Begun construction of a 2.5 mile nature corridor at the eastern end of the park. It is intended to be a pathway for bobcats, coyotes, California gnatcatchers and other wildlife species to move safely between the Santa Ana Mountains and the coast. The corridor, accessible only to wildlife, is expected to open mid-2019.
  • 101 acres of Great Park Sports complex completed, including six new soccer/lacrosse fields; a natural turf flex field that can accommodate four additional soccer fields, four basketball courts available for drop-in use, and more.

At our last Irvine City Council meeting, the Great Park’s Interim Director, Pete Carmichael, presented us with the latest Great Park Progress Report, which  I want to share with you.

Construction Updates:

  • Sports Park Phases 3 and 4: expected turnover September, 2018.
  • Bee and Bosque Trail Areas: awaiting turnover by partner FivePoint.
  • Ice Complex: opening expected by end of 2018.
  • Western Sector Street Improvements: construction in progress; phase 1 completion expected Fall 2018.

Forward Planning Updates:

  • Cultural Terrace: FivePoint contracting for Phase 2 consultants.
  • Cultural Terrace: Preliminary tenant outreach.
  • Cultural Terrace: parking plan developed to include parking stalls, entrance plaza and landscaping.
  • Water Park: CEQA studies in progress.
  • Water Park: land appraisal underway.
  • Water Park: new lease terms coming to City Council next month (August).

Further Updates and News:

  • Championship Soccer Stadium has held 17 tournaments; played 112 games; hosted 75 teams; and has had attendance of 95,625.
  • Soccer Fields have held 18 tournaments; 11,750 practices; 4,818 games; hosted 6,330 teams, and has had attendance of 411,330.
  • Upcoming Soccer Events: GSAC Conference Championships; NAIA National Championships.
  • Tennis Center has held 884 tournaments; 722 league matches, and given 1,745 lessons.
  • Movies on the Lawn Series: more than 9,000 visitors.
  • OC Steam Fest: 5,000 visitors.
  • UCI Anti-Cancer Walk: 3,500 visitors.

Up Next:

  • Opening of Baseball and Softball facilities.

Of course, there is still more to do.  As I have said, while I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park, the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace.  I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.

You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organizations that are working toward a Great Park botanical garden and a natural history museum:

Great Park Garden Coalition
Website: http://redryder200.com/GreatGardensCoalition/
Facebook: Click here.

California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA)
Website: http://www.ccrpa.com/
Facebook: Click here.

You can also help by signing this petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.

In addition, I remain strongly committed to the creation of veterans cemetery in Irvine.  Councilmember Christina Shea and I have proposed to build a veterans cemetery in the Great Park on land now designated for a golf course

This proposal would be both cost-saving and time-saving, and locates the veterans cemetery squarely within the Great Park and the former Marine Air Base, yet not next to neighborhoods and schools.

The proposal does not involve a land exchange, and the location of the cemetery would not open other areas to potential commercial development, add additional homes, or cause any increase in traffic.

Click HERE to read the proposal.

As you can see, we’ve accomplished a lot.  I am very proud of our residents, our city staff, and our community partners for all we’ve done so far, and I look forward to continuing to fulfill the promise of a truly Great Great Park!

Be sure to check out the Great Park Calendar of Events so you can keep up-to-date on what’s coming up next!

 

 

Fulfilling the Great Park Promise: The Cultural Terrace Needs Botanical Gardens and a Natural History Museum

I was delighted to speak this weekend to the Cultural and Natural History Museum and Botanical Gardens Workshop in Irvine.  This is what our City and our Great Park need now to fulfill the Great Park promise.

While I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park – from a new 12,000-seat live music amphitheatre to the new ice skating facility to a new 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park – the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace.

Supporters of a botanical garden at the 233-acre Cultural Terrace of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine hold signs and flowers during the Irvine City Council meeting Oct. 24, 2017. (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Cultural Terrace is a 223-acre portion of Orange County Great Park, envisioned as including a variety of culturally oriented amenities, such as gardens, art galleries, and museums.

I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.

Every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park.

I agree with the Great Park Garden Coalition that “We need places where children can experience nature and explore, where all can find refuge from the ever-increasing urban density and traffic, where people of all ages and abilities can experience beautiful outdoor spaces. All great urban parks have great garden spaces: Golden Gate Park, Central Park, Balboa Park.”

I also agree with what Joyce Mann wrote in the Voice of OC: “Gardens are an inclusive, a-political opportunity to bring community together for generations. They are a public benefit that becomes a lasting legacy. Besides being beautiful to look at, education is fundamental to the mission of botanical gardens. Through them, we have an opportunity to teach students of all ages about developing environmental awareness and to learn about plant science, gardening and the ecology of our local forests, rivers and wetlands. Botanical gardens become a living plant museum that will inform visitors about the importance and often-irreplaceable value of plants to the wellbeing of humans and to the earth’s fragile ecosystems. Isn’t that the very definition of a legacy?”

The Great Park Botanical Gardens would also benefit the monarch butterfly, a beautiful species that is undergoing significant challenges and stress in our area. In the past decade, the monarch butterfly population has plummeted due to habitat loss and poisonous insecticides. The Great Park Botanic Gardens would be the ideal site to become a future Monarch Waystation. Monarch Waystations are essentially road stops on the Monarchs’ migration path which are stocked with their favorite foods and places to rest. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have such a road stop for monarch butterflies right in our own backyard?

The Great Park should also include a world-class natural history museum.

Orange County is the only county in Southern California that does not have a Natural History Museum.

The County has millions of fossils, and thousands of artifacts, in storage and they are not available to the public.  This rich history of fossils and artifacts, perhaps one of the most important fossil-bearing areas in North America, if not the world, needs to be curated and displayed.  Additionally, the stories and history of the Juaneno/Acjachemen and Gabrielino/Tongva — our County’s indigenous people — needs to be told!

In fact, Orange County is already home to a fabulous collection of fossils and artifacts in the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, now located in several warehouses in Santa Ana.

The rocks of Orange County contain the fossilized remains of plants and animals from every major time period since the Jurassic – over 180 million years of prehistory! At this point, only a small fraction of the collection has been inventoried – about 20,000 specimens out of an estimated 3,000,000 or more from over 1,000 localities. Notable collections include: Eocene terrestrial mammals; late Oligocene-early Miocene terrestrial mammals; and Miocene-Pliocene marine mammals.

The Cooper Center’s archaeological holdings range in age from at least 12,000 years ago until historic times, including materials from all areas and environmental zones throughout the County including the coast, major and minor rivers, and foothill zones. Sites from these various areas include, but are not limited to, villages, fishing, milling activities associated with acorn and hard seed processing, and stone tool manufacture. Some of the artifact types recovered from these sites include cogstones, metates and manos, mortars and pestles, shell beads, hammerstones, projectile points, scrapers, incised stone and pottery sherds. Historical artifacts from the last century include glass bottles and toys. The artifacts held by the Cooper Center are the most extensive collection of Orange County history and prehistory anywhere and they provide archaeologists with a comprehensive view of what life was like in Orange County.

Unfortunately, this fabulous collection is not now open to the public. Although a county ordinance and federal preservation laws require that fossils, mostly uncovered by construction, be saved and kept in the county they were found, for the “benefit and inspiration of the public”.  our county’s rich store of fossils and artifacts cannot now be displayed, and are warehoused out of sight of the public. This collection ought to be open to all in a magnificent museum – a new Orange County Natural History Museum in the Great Park.

You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organizations that are working toward a Great Park botanical garden and a natural history museum:

Great Park Garden Coalition
Website: http://redryder200.com/GreatGardensCoalition/
Facebook: Click here.

California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA)
Website: http://www.ccrpa.com/
Facebook: Click here.

You can also help by signing this petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.

Thanks!