Halloween 2019 will be remembered in Jurupa Valley as the date the "46 Fire" destroyed a cherished community asset - the Louis Robidoux Nature Center.
The Nature Center had been earmarked in early 2019 by a collaboration of community partners to renovate and reopen the site. Progress made over the summer was wiped out in an instant by the wind-drive fire that broke out just after midnight. The site previously included 40 acres of open space along the Santa Ana River. The landscape, dotted with interpretive signage to guide visitors around the Nature Center and adjoining areas, provided important natural habitat for local area species. Other features included the popular Sunnyslope Creek nature trail, scenic picnic areas, a tribal grinding rock site, a historic pecan grove, and the 4,500 square foot Nature Center and courtyard.
Local residents lamented the loss of this treasured site which was established in the 1970's. In 2017, the Riverside County Parks and Open Space District (RivCoParks) was forced to close the site due to budget reductions and decreased attendance. In 2019, a new lease was signed by the community partners to rehabilitate the property and reopen the site as a regional park and habitat conservation area.
The site was originally established for elementary school children to come experience environmental features and wildlife along the Santa Ana River. Fond childhood memories of field trips to the Nature Center still remain for local adults who fell in love with the natural and historic beauty of this site as children.
While losing the site to fire was grim, there is good news. The native species are resistant to natural disasters such as fire, and in time they will recover. Even better, the community partners remain 100% committed to move ahead with their plans to renovate the site.
We can take a moment to thank our community partners who have made it their mission to persist in re-inventing and re-imagining this site for future generations and of course for current generations who already know the value. The group is know as the Louis Robidoux Nature Center Consortium. They are comprised of the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD), the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District), the Orange County Water District (OCWD), and non-profit entities Huerta del Valle (HdV), and Sunshine Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation. RivCoParks is also an active partner in the planning process for long-term rehabilitation of the site.