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Commentary: Greenbelt group explains Great Park plans

March 13, 2014|By Elisabeth Brown | By Elisabeth Brown

The Laguna Canyon Conservancy dinner meeting March 3 hosted Mike Ellzey, the chief executive of the Great Park Corp.

Ellzey presented a summary of changes to the Great Park Master Plan as a result of recent agreements between the developer, FivePoint Communities, and the Irvine City Council.

The new location and layout of the long-planned wildlife corridor was of particular concern by some in the audience. As president of Laguna Greenbelt Inc., I have been directly involved in corridor negotiations and planning, and will try to clear up any misperceptions about the approved Consensus Wildlife Corridor Plan.

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First, it is important to understand that the corridor plan that Ellzey and I are concerned with covers only the central three segments of a five-segment corridor — the coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor. These three segments pass through the closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and are known as the Great Park segments.

After a year of negotiations between Laguna Greenbelt and FivePoint Communities, a consensus corridor plan was drafted that satisfied a panel of independent wildlife movement experts, FivePoint Communities and our coalition of local, statewide and national environmental organizations. This plan was subsequently endorsed by federal and state wildlife agencies, and finally approved by the Irvine council in November 2013 and incorporated in the zoning codes of that city in December.

In the new plan, two segments of the corridor are moved eastward, adjacent to the Borrego Creek flood control channel. The channel increases protection on one side of the corridor from possible intrusion by people and non-native animals. No acreage was lost in the move. The new alignment is somewhat shorter than the previous one, so the corridor will be wider on average by about 600 feet. This is all to the good.

For the first time, there is an adopted plan, a funding source and a schedule for completion for the three central, most difficult and most expensive segments. We are pleased with the outcome of the negotiations and will continue working with FivePoint Communities and Irvine on a number of important associated issues as we move toward actual construction in a few years.

A dedicated website, http://www.wildlifecorridor.org, is up but not complete. We plan to post more detailed information about the adopted consensus plan shortly.

For general information, visit http://www.lagunagreenbelt.orghttp://www.lagunagreenbelt.org or email lagunagreenbelt@gmail.com.

ELISABETH BROWN is president of Laguna Greenbelt Inc.

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