SRT's Blue Oak Ranch Preserve is one step closer to daily public opening, thanks to a new grant from Southern California Edison (SCE).
SRT's current staff capacity and infrastructure means that Blue Oak Ranch is open just one day per month. To fully offer public access, hiring an onsite caretaker is essential to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all visitors, deter crime, maintain facilities, and monitor conditions.
According to SRT Executive Director Logan Robertson Huecker, PhD: "With previous support from Southern California Edison we are moving forward to create public access infrastructure, including new trails, signage, gates and parking area. With the goal of making Blue Oak Ranch accessible to a diverse public, SRT plans to convert the existing structure on the preserve into a caretaker residence. These important SCE funds will also support invasive plant management and rangeland compost application, and soil health education through our EARTH Academy program."
The 928-acre preserve, known formally as the Sopac McCarthy Mulholland Blue Oak Ranch Preserve (BORP), is nestled in the foothills near Springville and public lands including Sequoia National Forest, the Blue Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, and the Tulare County Office of Education's SCICON and Circle J Ranch sites.
SRT purchased the property in 2005, and has since created several trails and improved cattle grazing infrastructure. The property continues as a working ranch, with remnants of previous ownership in the form of old storage buildings and cattle handling facilities. SRT staff has completed several restoration projects, including planting native trees, and often take students from nearby Porterville there for field trips, making it an outdoor education facility that complements SCICON just across Bear Creek Road.
Blue Oak Ranch also offers a number of recreational and educational opportunities, including access to outdoor recreation in a natural foothill setting, where most land is in private ownership. This is especially important during the winter and spring when the foothills are resplendent with green grass and showy wildflowers, and access to higher elevation public lands is limited by snow cover.
With striking vistas from the ranch to surrounding lands, its diverse habitats, flora and fauna, the preserve offers abundant opportunities for restoration, habitat enhancement, and resource monitoring. It also offers evidence of long and continuing human use, first by the Yokuts people, and then by ranchers
Opening the preserve full-time will provide area residents and visitors with time in nature, including opportunities to enjoy and learn about the landscape as “human habitat.” Strategies include providing opportunities for low intensity recreational uses focused on the natural history and cultural uses of the ranch, especially during the winter and spring when higher elevation public lands are snowed in, and conditions in the foothills are very desirable. In addition, the SRT Education and Volunteer Department will provide educational programs and materials that enhance visitors’ enjoyment and understanding of Blue Oak Ranch ecology, land uses and resource management. Finally, design elements would enable people of varying ages, ethnic groups, economic levels, cultural backgrounds, and physical abilities (ADA compliance) to enjoy and learn while at the preserve.
Blue Oak Ranch Preserve is a privately owned and managed. In addition to the grant, the preserve is made accessible to the public by donations to Sequoia Riverlands Trust. Donations can be made via www.sequoiariverlands.org, or mailed to Sequoia Riverlands Trust, 427 S. Garden St | Visalia, CA 93277.