For all the congestion on the freeways at 8 a.m., the crowds swarming the malls on sale days, the many other sites of daily life where lines grow long and tempers grow short, there are certain Orange County oases. Count Upper Newport Bay among them.
For years there were debates on what, if anything, to put along the shores of the estuary. As development elsewhere proceeded dramatically, the consensus grew to keep the area around the bay as natural as possible. It was a wise decision.
Yet county planners, Newport Beach residents and those who used the bay as a respite from the hurly-burly outside understood that making it more accessible to more people was also a good idea.
This month one important part of the limited development of the area by the bay fell into place with the opening of a bike trail.
The bike path runs along the northwest part of the upper bay and will connect to a trail down to the lower bay and inland to the Woodbridge section of Irvine.
Bicycling has long been a favorite pastime of many Orange County residents, giving them access to trails along the ocean and into the hills in the county’s inland areas. Especially welcome have been groups that remind their riders to keep the paths clean and give a break to pedestrians admiring birds and plants alongside the trails.
The bike path is just one of several developments planned for a park on one of the few remaining undeveloped parts of the land along Upper Newport Bay. Dirt trails for walking and horseback riding are also planned, as is an interpretive nature center to be built into a hillside so it does not block views.
The Irvine Co. traded the land for the park to the county several years ago in exchange for development rights elsewhere. Newport Beach residents Peter and Mary Muth gave the county $1 million to help build the nature center.
That is a good example of cooperation between a public agency and private individuals to improve the quality of life in Orange County. That sort of creative financing will be needed in future years to help the county go forward with projects delayed because of the bankruptcy.