Walking to Keep the Wild Side at Bay

Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

Friday at Upper Newport Bay, 60 to 70 Marines will build a pontoon bridge, crossing some 420 feet of water from Shellmaker Island (near the Newport Dunes Resort) to North State Beach. By Monday, it will be gone.

The exercise is occasioned by Walk on the Wild Side, a Sunday afternoon event designed to "get people to appreciate the bay," said Marianne Towersey of the sponsoring Newport Conservancy. Activities include non-competitive walks of three and five miles, followed by entertainment ranging from a vaudeville show to Francis Awe's Nigerian talking-drum ensemble.

Also featured will be a juried art exhibit, "Brush With Nature," of works inspired by the bay and its surroundings. A youth art workshop is also planned.

The pontoon bridge makes a loop course possible for the walk without sending pedestrians onto busy Pacific Coast Highway. The last time a temporary bridge stretched across the bay, according to walk organizers, was in 1953 for the national Boy Scout Jamboree.

The walk will begin and end at 16th Street and Dover Drive in Newport Beach, an Irvine Co.-owned parcel known as Upper Castaways. The walk will also traverse another Irvine Co. parcel known as Newporter North.

Newport Conservancy is leading an effort to get the city to buy both parcels, on the bluffs overlooking the bay, for preservation as open space (the Irvine Co. has plans to build condos there). The $58-million purchase will be put to a citywide vote in November.

"The conservancy is hoping, by hook or by crook, that they'll remain open spaces," Towersey said.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the conservancy, a nonprofit group working to preserve the bay and its environs. Registration begins at 1:30 p.m., the walk begins at 2:30 p.m., and entertainment will be featured from 4 to 7 p.m. Food and drinks will be available.

Meanwhile, another wetlands support group, Amigos de Bolsa Chica, will hold its 14th annual Run for the Birds on Saturday. The 5K and 10K runs follow the bike path at Bolsa Chica State Beach, across the street from the wetlands. "There's always at least one flock of pelicans guaranteed to fly by," said Adrianne Morrison of Amigos.

In past years the event has drawn as many as 1,200 runners. Registration begins at 7 a.m.; the run begins at 8 a.m. Entry is $17, including T-shirt. Information: (714) 890-7222.

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What: Walk on the Wild Side, three- and five-mile walks.

When: Sunday, Oct. 10. Registration begins at 1:30 p.m.; walk begins at 2:30 p.m.; entertainment from 4 to 7 p.m.

Where: Upper Castaways, 16th Street and Dover Drive, Newport Beach.

Whereabouts: From Pacific Coast Highway, head north on Dover Drive (at the western edge of Newport Bay).

Wherewithal: Entry is $20 for adults, $12 for youths (under 12) and seniors. Entry includes T-shirt.

Where to call: (714) 548-1438.

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