Nearly 50 years ago in 1972, Newport Harbor High School Biology Teacher, Robert House, began to dare to dream of developing a gully and its adjacent unused land being co-opted at the time as a dumping area for the bus garage, by a thriving jungle of non-descript vegetation migrating into sloping backyards, and healthy weed patches abounding into a natural arena to take his students to so that they may learn nature from the “real world.” The region he was eyeing was situated just on the other side of the fence defining Newport Harbor High Schools outer east perimeter. House visualized improving upon this land to create an “educational facility for all ages to enjoy and from which to learn.”
Robert House, his fellow Biology teachers at Harbor High, and countless community and homeowner organizations worked tirelessly to develop this open space. Their enthusiasm fed the dreams of a vision leading to the ultimate creation of The Environmental Nature Center or as it is lovingly called The ENC. In the year 2017, the population of Newport Beach was 85,186 within a land mass of 23.78 square miles. It is fascinating to think that at one point the very land that The ENC now occupies provided stakes for students to picket their cows, horses, and sheep to while attending the Agriculture Program of the now disbanded Union High School District prior to the wasteland it became until 1972.
Open fields from time gone by were becoming an anomaly in Newport Beach in the seventies. Exemplifying just this is the Newport Back Bay accessed by teachers and their students as a means in which to learn about topography to botany. The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and The Ecological Reserve which has carved out 140 acres and 1 ½ square miles of precious bluffs, open water, mudflat, saltmarsh, freshwater marsh, riparian and upland habitat did not become designated its nature preserve in its entirety until the 1980’s after decades of lawsuits battling against the threat of the area to be developed into a marina with private homes and docks when its original use as a salt works was flooded in 1969.
In 1993, the Jepson Manual study determined that the California plant population included 2,153 species, subspecies, and varieties endemic and native solely to California. This vast diversity in botany is attributed to the size of the state as well as its varied topographies, climates, and soils therein.
Today the ENC spans over 5 loving acres and is home to “…one of the most unique examples of native California flora within Southern California…” which in turn has attracted insects, spiders, lizards, snakes, amphibians, mammals, as well as over 130 bird species. This impressive bird population has been recorded by the local Audubon Chapter. The ENC is an affirmation to the phrase “If you build it…he will come.” A phenomenon of movement most recently prophesied by James Earl Jones in the movie Field of Dreams.
There is well thought out day activities, camps, and educational programs for children to adults at The ENC throughout the year making a trip to The ENC truly worthwhile. Events up until May will be capped off with the Spring Faire and the opening of the Butterfly Exhibit!
It has been documented that nature taps into our instinctive biophilia helping to heal the spirit on both an emotional as well as physical level. With this in mind, O.C.’s Hair Police hopes that you and your family are able to find the time to wander the grounds of The ENC to stimulate the senses while enjoying a peaceful moment to be together within “…a completely natural area where’…all are able to…‘experience the sounds of birds, the smell of flowers and the textures of nature.”
http://nhhs.nmusd.us/ • http://encenter.org/ • http://www.newportbeachca.gov/ • http://newportbay.org/ * https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520253124
http://www.sierrasage.org/LWA/index.html • https://fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com/ *