Irvine resident Vicki Billings on a birding hike through Irvine’s open space
Irvine resident Vicki Billings on a birding hike through Irvine’s open space.

Trail guide describes her love for the land

“We see all kinds of wildlife and native plants ... within a mile of Woodbury Town Center.”

by TOMOYA SHIMURA

Vicki Billings is a volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC), which offers hikes and other programs on much of the 57,000 acres of open space on the Irvine Ranch.Vicki Billings is a volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC), which offers hikes and other programs on much of the 57,000 acres of open space on the Irvine Ranch.

Why did you become a volunteer with IRC?

When I moved to Irvine in 2011, my friend recommended to me that I go on IRC hikes. I enjoyed it so much that I was going on hikes all the time. Finally, the people I was hiking with said, “Why not volunteer here? You are here all the time anyway.” And so I did.

What’s your role?

I’m a trail guide. Often, when I am volunteering on a hike, I take the role that is called a sweep. That is the person who is the last in line to make sure no one gets lost. I carry a first-aid kit and I also carry the radio in case we need to call for outside help. Knock on wood, nothing has ever happened on any of the hikes in my many years at the conservancy.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I really enjoy socializing. People who go on these hikes are very nice people, and they know a lot. When we go on a birding hike, for example, many of the local people who are avid birders come along. So for someone like me, who’s basically a novice, everybody on the hike knows more than I do about the birds.

What makes Irvine’s open space special?

We see all kinds of wildlife and native plants out there. And to have all of that within basically a mile of the Woodbury Town Center is pretty remarkable. I have to say as a resident of Irvine, I feel my property values are greatly increased by the fact that there’s such easy access to the wilderness. It’s a lot of wilderness, and yet it’s right here in the middle of Orange County.

What’s your favorite hiking trail?

I personally happen to like Limestone Canyon. It has some quintessential California landscapes with the oak trees and the grassland. But Bommer Canyon has its attractions as well. You start down in the meadows and the cattle camp, and when you go up to the top of the ridge, you can see the ocean.

What else does IRC do?

I can’t stress enough how valuable in my life having access to the conservancy is. They give lectures. They give walks in the wilderness, and they have the seed farm where people are cultivating native plant seeds so that we can replant the area back to the way it was. It really adds to the quality of life here in Irvine that such an organization exists.

To learn more, visit letsgooutside.org/activities/