Steven Perez, new ranger at Idyllwild Nature Center. Photo by JP Crumrine

Steve Perez is the new ranger at the Idyllwild Nature Center. His appointment is only about a week old, but he has been acting in the position for most of the fall.

He comes to the Idyllwild position from Riverside County’s Hidden Valley Nature Center, which is along the Santa Ana River between Riverside and Interstate 15 to the west.

Although he has traveled and worked in Yosemite, Southern California is Perez’s home and he currently resides in Perris. But he affirms he is an “Orange County boy.”

The commute from Perris, about an hour, does not bother him. “Without traffic and gorgeous views” make it seem much shorter, Perez feels.

Prior to becoming the Hidden Valley ranger, Perez worked in the county’s District Attorney’s Office. It convinced him that he didn’t want to become an attorney.

He prepared and managed the evidence for many of the DA’s cases, especially when body cameras were an important aspect of the case. “It helped me decide I didn’t want to be stuck in an office job,” Perez said about his legal work. “I became the park ranger at Hidden Valley. It’s quite different there from here.”

One important difference is that the Santa Ana River at Hidden Valley is composed of a high percentage of reclaimed wastewater. He referred to his position at Hidden Valley as a “beach ranger.” He talked to families barbecuing and playing along the river.
“[Idyllwild] is a wildlife refuge,” he suggested.

His entrée to the wildlife and refuge profession started during his early 20s. During that period, he worked in many local political campaigns. Despite what many think, these are not full-time positions. Since the major elections occur several months every year or two, Perez needed work between campaigns. So he became a seasonal worker at several parks.

Perez attended Fullerton College, Orange Coast College and Cal State Fullerton where he studied and gained experience in the hospitality industry. With that background, he sees tremendous potential for the Nature Center and the whole Idyllwild community.

“I’m excited about what can be done,” he stated. As an example, he noted that many visitors to the Nature Center come to see and observe birds. With the feeding and water stations, and trail cameras, the Nature Center offers great opportunities for birders, Perez noted.

“The Friends [of the San Jacinto Mountain County Parks] are motivated to take the Nature Center to the next level,” Perez added. “I’m excited and like to be part of that effort. Idyllwild is a fantastic place to visit and accessible from all of Riverside County. It’s becoming a top tourist destination and could be number one quickly.”

Amanda Allen, the former park interpreter, managed the Nature Center from July 2015 until she left a year ago. Perez brings a large amount of energy and enthusiasm to his responsibility of the Nature Center.

Besides offering the trails and natural history stories to visitors, Perez also wants to be sure the Nature Center is known to the local community.

“I will be extremely active in the community. I want to be sure the Nature Center fills the role as a Riverside park and environment,” he promised.

Perez said he welcomes comments and community input on the Nature Center services. “Don’t be surprised to run into me in town boasting about our community here,” he said.

“I know a lot of people live here to enjoy the peace and quiet, but we can make the best of people who come to enjoy our beauty,” Perez opined. “The Nature Center has more potential and is a big part of what makes Idyllwild Idyllwild.”