Central Reach: Great Park Neighborhoods

 

traffic-semaphore-green-light-mdStatus

Funded and planned. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2018. OCTA and Metrolink agreement needed for wildlife permeable fences at railroad crossing. Long-term stewardship program needed.

 

 

Description

Central-ReachNorth of the I-5, the corridor emerges in the Serrano Creek bed where new upland habitat parallel to the creek is already available to wildlife. The corridor crosses under the Alton/Culver intersection, and climbs into a wide landscape bordered to the North by railroad tracks. Wildlife-friendly fencing allows for crossing the tracks. It will cross over the Borrego Creek channel on wildlife bridges and continue northward, with the channel and existing industrial development on its east side, and planned Great Park Neighborhoods to its west. High berms and vegetation will screen wildlife from neighboring developed areas. Fences on either side will keep wildlife in the corridor and human/pet intruders out. (See diagram below.) Plantings will include southern cactus scrub, coastal sage scrub, and riparian scrub. The width of the corridor in this Central Reach varies from 440 feet to 1,100 feet.

Typical x-section June 2013 seg 2

This typical cross-section shows the combination of planting, drainage, and berms that are planned for the corridor in the Central Reach, north of the Borrego Creek crossing.

 

Importance

The development of the Great Park Neighborhoods on the former MCAS El Toro base provides an unprecedented opportunity to create a wildlife corridor that connects the Laguna coast and Santa Ana Mountain wildlands. Specifically, this alignment provides a direct connection between the northern and southern halves of the Nature Reserve of Orange County.

Progress

  • Five Point Communities—the developer for the Great Park Neighborhoods—and the corridor coalition have negotiated and agreed on a consensus plan for constructing the corridor. This plan was informed by wildlife movement experts who were convened at a 2012 workshop, and it was endorsed by federal and state wildlife agencies. This video shows restoration biologist Tony Bomkamp telling the story of that collaboration.
  • The consensus Irvine Wildlife Corridor Plan was adopted by the Irvine City Council in late 2013. The corridor is now reflected in the city’s general plan and zoning. Land swaps in early 2015 placed the corridor land under City of Irvine ownership, with a deed restriction limiting it to wildlife corridor use only.
  • Five Point Communities has agreed to finance and carry out construction of the corridor as a feature on the edge of the Great Park Neighborhoods. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2018, with completion expected in 18 months.
  • Looking ahead to the future planting work, Five Point Communities has established a cactus nursery using pads harvested from local cactus patches. These plants are being used to grow a stock of local cactus for the future cactus scrub habitat in the corridor.
cactus nursery

Local prickly pear and cholla cactus are being grown for the future wildlife corridor in a cactus nursery, shown here soon after cactus pads were transplanted from a nearby site (without harming the donor plants!).

 

Challenges

  • The corridor has already been designed to overcome several man-made obstacles. It will include an access ramp for the Serrano Creek channel and two vegetated covers (wildlife bridges) across Borrego Creek, as well as new roadway undercrossings beneath Astor Road and a future Marine Way extension. The corridor will use the existing roadway undercrossings at the Irvine Boulevard/Magazine Road and Barranca/Alton intersections.
  • Permission from OCTA and Metrolink is still needed in order to install wildlife permeable fencing near the Irvine Transportation Center, as specified in the Irvine Wildlife Corridor Plan. Current fencing presents an obstacle to wildlife crossings, and an undercrossing at this location is not feasible.
  • It is important to establish a meaningful and ongoing stewardship program for the corridor that includes scientific input.