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NATURE PARK
 
   

Several acres of the museum's property have been preserved as a nature park that supports native scrub and wetlands vegetation and wildlife.

The nature park is open to the public at no charge from 1 to 3 pm Wednesday through Friday and 10 am to 3 pm Sunday.

   
       
   
California oak trees
Wetland
California oaks
Santa Ana's only wetlands
   
Wood duck
Rabbit
Wood duck
Rabbit
   
Scrub vegetation
Sycamore trees
Scrub vegetation
Sycamore trees
   
Before the arrival of the Spanish, this area was a fresh water marsh connected to the Bolsa Chica wetlands, especially in wet years. Over time, most of these wetlands disappeared through plowing and drainage by the Spanish and, later, the pioneers.

The site was ethnographically associated with the Gabrielino Indians. While three archaeological sites of the Native Americans have been found in central Santa Ana, none have been located in the immediate vicinity of the museum's land.

The property now occupied by the museum was farmed until after WW II when the U. S. Government took the land as a communications center for the Nike missile sites based in the surrounding area.

In 1967, with the demise of the missile center, the U.S. Government gave the Santa Ana School District a quick claim deed for the land, 21.17 acres, on the condition it be used for educational purposes. The School Board used some of the land for an elementary school and a ROP school. In 1978, the rest of the acreage was developed as the Environmental Learning Center, which became the Discovery Museum, now the Centennial Heritage Museum.

Core samples were taken on the graded and denuded land. Two early wetland areas were rediscovered under the surface. These wetlands were reopened by digging down 15 feet to the water table. Then 65,000 cubic yards of soil were brought in from the Santa Ana River bed to create three mounds averaging about 25' in height, though the tip of one is 30' high, the highest land point in Santa Ana.

Wind blown seeds and seeds from the riverbed mounds found their way into the ponds, recreating the wetlands environment. The flora includes willow, black walnut, elderberry, oak, palm, sycamores and conifers.

Currently, these are the only two fresh water marshes in Santa Ana. The Nature Park provides breeding grounds for ducks, egrets, hawks, crows, nightingales and smaller birds. While most of our ducks are usually mallards, we are occasionally host to wood ducks whose plumage outshines the mallards.

 
         

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