Gertrude Emerson, who donated land in Temecula to the University of California to establish Emerson Oaks Reserve, passed away in Capistrano Beach on May 9, 2011. Trudi Emerson, as she was known to friends and family, was 93.
“She was an utter delight,” says UC Natural Reserve System Coordinator Violet Nakayama, who worked on reserve matters with Emerson for two decades. “She was lively, fun, warm, and very generous, full of energy and positive thinking. I will miss her.”
Emerson and her then-husband Harvey acquired the 241 oak-clad acres in 1948. They gave the parcel to the Nature Conservancy in the mid-1970s. The land was transferred to the Natural Reserve System in 1991 for protection in perpetuity.
Over the next decade, Emerson herself gave additional land and funds to the University to enlarge the reserve. The reserve remains an island of native biodiversity in a region that has seen increasing agricultural and urban development. The site is managed by UC Riverside.
In addition to its namesake oaks, the reserve includes healthy stands of chaparral and coastal sage scrub. Kangaroo rats, mule deer, two species of rattlesnakes, and other species call the reserve home. Scientists and elementary through university students visit the reserve to study its ecosystems.