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 voter-approved, precedent-setting 1988 Open Space Initiative. The open space preserve is made up of a mosaic of native habitats including rare wetlands, oak woodlands and coastal sage scrub habitats, and 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, in accordance with the Natural Community Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan. For that reason, protecting the rare natural resources that are found in the City of Irvine 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 native California wildlands the way they a long time ago. There are many opportunities to experience the land through self-guided and docent-led hiking, mountain biking and equestrian activities. In addition, the City’s partner, 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 registering for free docent-led activities. These guided programs cater to a variety of interests, including hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, fitness, family programs, and even special activities such as bird-watching and full moon walks. Visit LetsGoOutside.org/explore/iosp to learn more and register for these docent-led activities. A complete list of open space amenities can be found on the City's Places to Visit webpage.
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, such as Quail Hill, include designated trails that are open dawn to dusk daily for self-guided exploring. Visitors can also enjoy an exclusive self-guided audio tour on their phones while exploring Quail Hill Loop. Other areas, such as Shady Canyon, are accessible on guided activities for the protection of highly sensitive and endangered natural resources and native wildlife. The City is actively working to expand both self-guided and docent-led opportunities for residents to visit these places over time as planned trails and facilities are completed. Learn more about the Irvine Open Space Preserve's natural communities and their significance here.
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 the 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 the City of Irvine.
The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is essentially the same thing; it is the mechanism by which the federal government permitted the City of Irvine’s land use and conservation program. Visit the City of Irvine's Preservation Strategies webpage to learn more.
How many acres are in Irvine’s Open Space Preserve?
The City has set aside approximately 8,000 acres of preserved natural habitats and wildlands as a result of the 1988 Open Space Initiative and the partnerships it created .
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 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, equestrian, interpretive, stewardship and more. The City oversees the work and ensures that the programs and projects provided are of the highest quality. For more information on the Conservancy, please visit irconservancy.org or call 714-508-4757. To register for a program on the Irvine Open Space Preserve, visit LetsGoOutside.org/explore/iosp.