The city of Fullerton held a celebration on January 29 to commemorate the purchase of 24 acres in the west Coyote Hills, which will permanently be set aside as open space.
Long under consideration for housing development by Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron, the preservation of this former oil-producing site is environmentally important as it is a core home to endangered species such as California gnatcatchers, according to Scott Thomas, a wildlife researcher who is a member of the Sea and Sage Chapter of the Audubon Society.
The City’s acquisition of the two properties is a partial culmination of the decades-long fight by preservationists, which has included several court battles, to preserve what remains of the west Coyote Hills, said Angela Lindstrom of local conservation organization Friends of Coyote Hills. Lindstrom cited strong public support for preservation resulting from outreach and education as well as supportive elected officials as essential to achieving the sale, which the group termed “a local and global win.”
Galen Wang, a local resident who was present at the event and frequently hikes in the area surrounding the properties, said that his family’s involvement in saving west Coyote Hills encouraged him to pursue a career in environmental law.
“I remember the first couple of meetings of Friends of Coyote Hills being at my parents’ house at the living room table. It’s pretty cool to see how things are progressing and moving forward today,” Wang said.
On hand were some of Fullerton’s most high-profile politicians, including Mayor Fred Jung, County Supervisor Doug Chaffee, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, and State Senator Josh Newman.
“Once we lose open space, we never get it back,” Newman remarked from a podium surrounded by the sandstone hills dotted with prickly-pear cacti. “We owe it to our neighbors now, and more importantly to my kid and her kids and all the generations to follow, to preserve open space.” Newman added that the diminishing amount of natural habitat in northern Orange County, which has caused the region to turn into “one contiguous urban megalopolis,” inspired him to fight along with Quirk-Silva in the State legislature for the State funding that would allow the city of Fullerton to purchase the properties.
Although obtaining the newly purchased land has been an important milestone for local preservationists and community members, their ultimate goal has not yet been accomplished. According to Lindstrom, Friends of Coyote Hills ultimately aims to save all remaining 510 acres of west Coyote Hills, and the recent purchases only make up five percent of remaining open space.
After speeches from the politicians and local activists concluded, the audience was invited to take part in a short, mile-long hike in west Coyote Hills to learn more about the native plants and animals, such as red-shouldered hawks and coyotes, present at the site.
After conquering an uphill trek, hikers were treated to ice-cream sandwiches upon their return, which were served by a truck bearing Newman’s name.
To learn more go to www.coyotehills.org.
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