Environment & Science

Orange County Transportation Authority unveils its new open space

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The Orange County Transportation Authority this morning will unveil its new open space acquisition. The land, near Modjeska Canyon, not far off the 241 Toll Road in an area known as Saddle Creek South, is part of a larger plan to preserve open space.

"It’s a beautiful piece of property, an 84-acre piece in South County. And it bridges the gap between the O’Neill Regional Park and the Cleveland National Forest," says Will Kempton, CEO of the OCTA. "So it provides a very important connection between those two preserved areas that are already in existence. We think it will really have a lasting impact on the county."

This is the first property OCTA has purchased under the Environmental Freeway Mitigation Program. Officials built that program into the second phase of the county’s Measure M, the voter-approved sales tax for transportation.

Rather than buying small plots of land near freeway and road projects, they’ve decided to purchase larger open space parcels to make up for the environmental impact of the transportation projects.

Kempton says programs like this help bolster support for transportation tax measures.

"Clearly, I think people have a concern about congestion," he says. "They want to see additional transportation facilities, transit, rail, highways, but providing an environmental mitigation program as part of our sales tax measure I think was very helpful in earning the support of the environmental community for moving forward with the second 30-year program."

Under the second Measure M, the transportation agency has $240 million over 30 years to preserve open space.