I was worried about moving from Yosemite National Park to Orange County, California. And rightly so. Two more different places could hardly be found. Although it may not feel like it to those who visit in summer, with its crush of people and its bumper-to-bumper traffic, Yosemite, at its heart, is about the preservation of wilderness.
In the mid-1800s, Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of Central Park) pushed for a Yosemite where roads would funnel people into 5% of its landmass. That left the other 95%, an area the size of Rhode Island, alone.
The same could not be said of Orange County. Size-wise, it’s one of the smallest counties in California. Yet, with just over 3 million people, its population ranks it third in the state, just behind Los Angeles to its north and San Diego to the south. It wasn't always this way.
As its name implies, Orange County once supplied citrus to the world. At the very same time that Olmstead was laying out his vision of Yosemite, farmers were planting Orange County's first Valencia orange trees. By 1948, 5 million trees were under cultivation on 67,000 acres of land. Yet 30 years later, only 4,000 acres remained. By 2005, less than 100 acres of Valencia oranges still existed. What happened? Development. As the aerospace and defense industries of the Cold War years moved to Southern California, the people who owned Orange County’s farms discovered the land had far more value when the only thing cropping up were office buildings and housing tracts.