Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Hidden Treasures: Panorama Vista Preserve

Discovering secrets in our backyard.

by Vaun Thygerson
Staff writer and mother of three

When people stand on top of the bluffs off of Panorama Drive and look down into the oil fields, many only see the oil derricks. They don’t realize there is a nature preserve of almost 1,000 acres located there where a variety of birds, animals, trees, and even endangered species find sanctuary. “It’s amazing to me how many people don’t know this preserve exists,” says Carolyn Belli, President of the Panorama Vista Preserve. “People don’t realize what a peaceful and pretty place this is - right in their own backyard.  It’s right here.”

Visitors to the preserve can find all kinds of adventures waiting for them. They can see Killdeer protecting their eggs, beavers building their dam, turkey vultures, red-tail hawks, bobcats, baby ducklings, and riparian woodland plants.  They can also picnic on the sandy banks of the Kern River.  The preserve is also home to Bakersfield Cactus, an endangered plant species, and many historical sites such as the Yowlummne Yokuts encampment and Kern River stage area.

Belli, grandmother to 19 grandchildren, loves to bring them to explore the preserve where they can run around, hike to the beaver dam, or just listen quietly to the different bird sounds. “It’s what kids used to do before all the televisions and electronic stuff distracted them,” she says. “I want to give them ownership to the outdoors.  I want them to grow up to appreciate what nature gives us.”

The Panorama Vista Preserve stretches from Manor Drive on both sides of the Kern River and extends to Gordon’s Ferry at China Grade Loop and from Panorama Park to Beardsley Canal. With five access points to 32 hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, the preserve is open to the public for low-impact use in such activities as walking, horseback riding, bird watching, picnicking, swimming, and exploring nature. The preserve does not allow motorized vehicles or overnight camping without prior authorization.

Andy Honig, a retired elementary school teacher and Panorama Vista Preserve board member, says that Bakersfield is lucky to have this land in its natural state. “It is so important to have a unique, natural area,” he says. “There are not many riparian areas in urban areas where you can see wildlife like red-tail hawks, coyotes, and bobcats. I get a real thrill out of it.”

Before creating the preserve, Belli spent 20-plus years riding her horse on the equestrian trail through the Kern River corridor and enjoying its beauty. Passionate about her horse and the land that would soon become the preserve, she established an organization called the Kern River Equestrians for the Preservation of Trails to protect the integrity of the local equestrian trail.  With the collaboration of her organization, the Kern River Public Access Committee, and the Kern River Parkway Foundation, they raised funds to purchase the majority of the preserve from ARCO. From there, her organization worked with the Kern River Public Access Committee to establish the Kern River Corridor Endowment and Holding Corporation, Inc., a California 501 (c) (3) non-profit public benefit corporation that owns and manages the preserve. Established in 1998, the board members and volunteers have worked hard to beautify, replenish, and protect the land. “The Panorama Vista Preserve has a two-pronged goal: to restore vegetation through habitat restoration and to educate youth on how important it is to protect our environment,” Belli says.

Due to land developments, dams, and water diversions, California’s riparian forests are disappearing with only about 100,000 acres left statewide. One of the largest remaining remnants is located within the preserve. Based on extensive research from River Partners, an organization from Modesto, the Panorama Vista Preserve has a conceptual restoration plan for habitat development. “We know what plants are most likely to grow on any area of the preserve,” Belli says.

Thus far, volunteers have planted 30-plus acres with new plants and trees to increase the size of its forest.  With the use of grants, the next phase of the plan will restore 129 more acres of the preserve to its former lush vegetative state. An on-site nursery helps to grow these plants and trees before they actually plant them in the ground.  New vegetation comes from seeds or cuttings of plants currently growing on the preserve. Some of the new plantings include cottonwood, sycamore, valley oak, elderberry, willow, and many more.

The other major objective the preserve focuses on is their educational component.  Under the direction of Kathi Parks, they have many opportunities to teach the youth about nature and the environment.  Schools, daycares, preschools, and scout troops have all visited the Panorama Vista Preserve for educational field trips and science day camps.

To find out more about the preserve or to schedule a field trip, please visit


Free entry  •  Free parking  • Dogs are welcome • visit


• Staging/parking lot on Roberts Lane east of Manor Drive

• Bicycle path entrances at Manor Drive & China Grade Loop

• Panorama Park, down the bluff

• Equestrian trail at China Grade Loop on the east

• Primary equestrian trail from the west

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Tags: Enrichment, Featured Story, Sports

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