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Louis Rubidoux Nature Center to be Renovated and Reopened

Five local partners commit to renovating the Jurupa site as part of long-term environmental education and habitat conservation efforts.

Five local stakeholders representing three counties have partnered to jointly renovate and reopen a beloved public space in Jurupa Valley.  The Louis Robidoux Nature Center includes 40 acres of open space and a 4,500 square foot building that is owned by the Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District (Park District).  In 2018, the Park District requested proposals for management services of the space, seeking an entity that could make multiple improvements to the site and then manage ongoing activities that meet key aspects of their mission, such as public recreation, education, and preservation of open-space.

Known collectively as the Louis Robidoux Nature Center Consortium (Consortium), the five partners joined forces on a proposal for management of the site.  This Consortium includes the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD), the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District), the Orange County Water District (OCWD), community farming non-profit Huerta del Valle (HdV), and Sunshine Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation, a non-profit entity that rehabilitates injured wild animals.  The Park District is also actively participating as a partner in the planning process for long-term rehabilitation of the facility.

The Consortium submitted a concept for proposed use of the entire 40-acre property that would maximize regional ecological and educational benefits.  In November of 2018, the Consortium received official notice that it was selected as the winning proposal to manage the site for five years, with additional lease extensions available. 

The long-term vision for the use of the property is to promote nature-based educational programming that is integrated with the other functions occurring onsite, such as habitat restoration, species conservation, sustainable farming, and wildlife rehabilitation.  The diverse set of proposed uses for the site benefit the individual partner agencies, the Consortium as a whole, and fulfill the Park District’s desired use of the site. 

Sunnyslope Creek, immediately adjacent to the 40-acre property, is a degraded tributary to the Santa Ana River and was proposed for restoration and long-term management by the Consortium.  The natural bottom portions of the Creek need significant channel restoration, a trash management system at the storm channel outlet, water augmentation during the dry seasons, and reconstruction of the creek-side trail and bridges.  These improvements will provide a safe experience for the public and educational groups to learn about the important native habitat and species that are reliant upon the functional ecosystem of the Santa Ana River.  The Creek restoration will be completed by Valley District on behalf of the Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), a regional conservation effort that is currently being undertaken by eleven water resource agencies of the Santa Ana River.  The HCP effort includes partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and several other government agencies and stakeholder organizations.  The purpose of the HCP is to enable the participating water resource agencies to continue to provide and maintain a secure source of water for the residents and businesses in the watershed, and to conserve and maintain natural rivers and streams that provide habitat for a diversity of unique and rare species in the watershed.  The stream restoration project is proposed within property currently owned by the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.

On behalf of the HCP, Valley District, in cooperation with the Orange County Water District, would serve as lead for the proposed tributary and habitat restoration work on Sunnyslope Creek.  Based on similar restoration designs of nearby creeks, Valley District anticipates the restoration of Sunnyslope Creek will cost approximately $2 million.  The costs related to this restoration work will be shared by the HCP partners. 

“The opportunity to get involved in the Louis Robidoux Nature Center project is one that aligns closely with what Valley District is working to accomplish through the Habitat Conservation Plan,” commented Valley District Board President T. Milford Harrison.  “Creating new open spaces, trails, and educational opportunities coupled with the environmental enhancements along the rivers and streams make this project one that Valley District is proud to be a part of.”

The Consortium determined, and the Park District agreed, that long-term management of the site including restoration of the creek and an educational program would provide multiple benefits to the entire watershed.  These benefits include storm water management, water quality improvements, water conservation education, and improved habitat and species conservation.  The rehabilitation of the Nature Center and development of educational programming is being led by the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District, a public agency headquartered in Redlands who provides critical support to residents and resources throughout 1,286 square miles of the upper Santa Ana River watershed.

The IERCD facilitates a suite of standards-focused conservation education programming throughout their service area, including classroom presentations, field trips to the area Preserves, community workshops, and support of the outdoor demonstration landscaping and sustainable agriculture, among other components.  However, their program is currently limited by space constraints.  As an expansion of their program, the IERCD will staff the Nature Center, including hiring a site manager and establishing a resident caretaker who will care for the site and promote responsible use of the facilities. 

“The vision that we see for the Louis Robidoux Nature Center is one that will address a current need, meet a community need, and plan for the needs of the future,” responded IERCD Board President Paul Williams, when asked why the IERCD decided to get involved in this project.  “The number of partners who have expressed an interest in having their hand in helping to reopen this invaluable community asset has been tremendous.  We are looking forward to partnering with the Parks District and the Consortium to help revive the Louis Robidoux Nature Center and the programs to accompany it.”

Working together with the Park District, the IERCD and Consortium partners will develop a project and program that promotes stewardship and volunteerism as well as regional collaboration.  While not formalized, the IERCD intends to provide tours, student field trips, and interpretive programs for the public that focus on conservation of open space and natural resources, such as soil and water along with promoting long-term environmental stewardship practices.

The Louis Robidoux Nature Center was established in the 1970s for elementary age kids to experience the Santa Ana River and its plants and wildlife.  The site includes areas for hiking trails, an RV hookup for the resident caretaker, the 4,500 square foot building, and an historic pecan grove.  In 2017, the Park District was forced to close the site due to budget reductions and decreased attendance.

Please join us for a community forum on Friday, August 16th from 5-7 p.m. to hear about our plans for LRNC and to share your ideas. The forum will take place at Louis Robidoux Nature Center: 5370 Riverview Drive, Riverside CA 92509.

About San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District

Valley District is a State Water contractor that provides supplemental water to 14 retail water agencies from Fontana to Yucaipa, meeting the water needs of over 700,000 business and residential customers.  In addition to providing supplemental water from Northern California, Valley District is responsible for long-range water planning throughout its 325 square mile service area, including importing supplemental water, groundwater management, and wastewater and storm water disposal.  For more information about Valley District and water use efficiency, visit www.sbvmwd.com or follow us on Facebook (@SBValleyDistrict) and Twitter (@SBVMWD).

About the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District

The IERCD is part of a network of 97 resource conservation districts supporting open space conservation, wildland uplift, sustainable forestry and agriculture, and facilitation of environmental education and outreach opportunities within respective service-area boundaries throughout California. Locally, the IERCD provides natural resources conservation-focused programming within its over 823,000-A service area, independently and alongside federal, state, and local government and 501c3 non-profit partners including all members of the LRNC.  For more information on IERCD staffing and services visit our website at www.iercd.org or follow us on Facebook (@InlandEmpireRCD) or Instagram (@inlandempireRCD)

About Huerta del Valle

Huerta del Valle (HdV) is a 501c3 organization working to increase availability of sustainably produced food and resident awareness of regional conservation issues and needs, through management of multiple sites throughout the Inland Empire, focused on community-based agriculture and education.  HdV maintains a 4-acre urban farm in Ontario, a 3-acre fruit tree and native plant nursery site in Jurupa Valley, is in the process of establishing a 2-acre carbon farm in Ontario, and is finalizing a partnership with the Riverside County Parks and Open Space District to manage 30-acres of County ag property through a combination of urban farming and New Farmer Training Program incubator plots.  For more information on HdV, please visit www.huertadelvalle.org or contact Project Manager Arthur Levine: alevine@huertadelvalle.org

About Orange County Water District

OCWD is a regional water agency focused on providing reliable, high quality water supply in a cost-effective and environmentally conscious manner. As part of this mission, the District oversees the management and replenishment of Orange County's groundwater basin, elevates water reliability for residents, prevents seawater intrusion, and protects OCWD rights to the Santa Ana River. In addition to protection of water supply and access, OCWD also performs regular conversation-focused community education, and project work focused on restoration and protection of habitat for the federally-listed Santa Ana Sucker. The partnership in LRNC management will allow OCWD to continue its ten-year efforts in Santa Ana sucker preservation at Sunnyslope Creek, and to collaborate with other site partners on design and facilitation of watershed-wide education and outreach.  For more information on OCWD, please visit: www.ocwd.com/

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