Opinion: Green Light 

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Wednesday Wellness Walking with Supervisor Katrina Foley 

By Tom Osborne

“It was a little warm,” chided 5th District Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley on returning from a leisurely morning “walk and talk” under a blazing summer sun with about thirty-five or so residents, mainly from Laguna Beach, in late July. Charlotte Masarik’s semiweekly hiking group turned out in force, enlivening conversations throughout the walk. Laguna Beach City Councilmembers Alex Rounaghi and Mark Orgill strolled with us.

We ambled from the Nix Nature Center via an animal corridor crossing to Barbara’s Lake in the James Dilley Preserve in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Several Orange County Park rangers and Hallie Jones, executive director of The Laguna Canyon Foundation, joined us. Supervisor Foley told us this was the largest turnout she’s had for her monthly Wednesday Wellness Walks. She started these excursions into the parks in her District, for the purpose of enhancing the health of residents by connecting us with nature. What an inspired idea! 

With the walkers all assembled at the Nix Nature Center at about 9 a.m., Supervisor Foley laid out for us some major environmental issues to which she is devoting her attention: undergrounding of utility poles along Laguna Canyon Road/State Route 133, beach protection from sand loss and eroding cliffs, stabilizing the rail system along our coastline, drafting a county-wide climate action plan, and wildfire prevention/mitigation. These concerns seemed spot-on, and in my fifty years of living in Foley’s district, I’ve not encountered a more energetic, knowledgeable and publicly accessible County Supervisor. 

En route to Barbara’s Lake, Foley stopped at a clearing in the chaparral and announced that the County would likely plant some trees at that site. Park rangers pointed out flora and fauna along the trail, particularly the live oak trees and hearty native wild California grape plants that seemed to handle drought well. Laguna environmentalist and wilderness park advocate Mary Fegraus talked to us about the importance of “connectivity” between various habitats for animals in the area, noting that Laguna Coast Wilderness Park had a whopping seven such animal crossing corridors. Moreover, she told us that California is building the world’s largest “animal bridge” that will allow fauna of the Santa Monica Mountains to cross ten-lane Highway 101 near Los Angeles safely. This was welcome news. With so much air, water and soil pollution in our state, California has still been America’s widely acknowledged leader in protecting nature for nearly the past century. 

About half an hour after starting on the trail, we arrived at the lake named in honor of deceased Laguna icon Barbara Stuart, a close friend of the inspiration and driving force behind the creation of the Laguna Greenbelt, Jim Dilley. Stuart strongly supported the greenbelt project to surround our town with a necklace of native vegetation. She was also an aficionado of the performing arts and a co-founder of Ballet Pacifica. At or before the time of her passing away in 1998, she made a bequest to Laguna Greenbelt so that others might enjoy its serene beauty. The six-acre aquatic wonderland bearing her name reputedly constitutes Orange County’s only natural lake. I cannot imagine a better destination walk for Lagunans to take in the company of our County supervisor. The entire experience spoke glowingly to a prominent public official about Laguna’s legacy of environmental stewardship. In return, Foley spoke to Lagunans about her high priority to protect our County’s natural endowments. 

To get to know Supervisor Foley better and, at the same time, take in the healthful natural beauty of our County parks, inquire about the upcoming Wednesday Wellness Walks at  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/CAORANGE/bulletins/3550437

Tom Osborne is an environmental historian, author of Pacific Eldorado: A History of Greater California (2020), and a climate and ocean activist. With his wife, Ginger, he co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. [email protected].

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