Corona del Mar Today: Helicopter picks up, moves bridges

For about 30 minutes Wednesday morning, many Corona del Mar residents were focused on Upper Buck Gully, watching as a helicopter picked up and moved into place four metal bridges that are part of a new trail project's final components.

The bridges were fabricated offsite and delivered Monday to a lookout parking lot of Canyon Watch Park on San Joaquin Hills Road.

About 9 a.m., the helicopter flew in to begin the installation process. In Harbor View Hills South, Spyglass and other neighborhoods, residents stood in their backyards, watching the helicopter fly back and forth to set the bridges on waiting footings that were built late last year.

The looped trail path begins at Fifth and Poppy avenues and will connect to San Joaquin Hills Road.

It will open in late May to the public, city officials said.

Police briefly closed San Joaquin Hills Road at Spyglass Hill Road, stopping traffic while the helicopter moved the bridges. By 9:30 a.m., the installation was completed.

According to a city news release, the helicopter operation was organized by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and included Newport Beach staff and Federal Aviation Administration officials.

"The bridges were fabricated in Florida and transported by semi-truck cross-country and weigh more than 3,000 pounds," the news release states. The bridges are up to 50 feet long, the statement said.

The helicopter pilot was Glenn Smith of Atlas Aircraft Helicopter Co., and Atlas and conservancy staff and volunteers worked to secure the park.

"The next steps before the May 30 reopening will be to bolt the bridges in place and build ramps to the bridges where needed," the stamen said.

The conservancy also plans to add benches along the trails, new access gates and informational kiosks at trailheads.

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Signs to mark walk route

The Corona del Mar Scenic 5K route will be marked this year with signs and not paint or chalk, the CdM Chamber of Commerce president said.

"It's more labor intensive," President Linda Leonhard told the board of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District. "But it was something we have to do."

A year ago, route marks on Corona del Mar streets remained in place for nearly two months after the event, despite claims that the marks were temporary and would quickly fade. A resident complained, and the city spent $495 to remove about 100 individual marks.

Leonhard said runners prefer to have the marks instead of signs because marks can be made many days before the racing event.

"A lot of runners like to run in advance and check the course," she said. "But we're going to do signage instead."

This year's Scenic 5K will take place June 2 with a route that runs through the Flower streets, over the Goldenrod Footbridge and ends at a Restaurant Row on Ocean Boulevard.

The race, more than 25 years old, includes a kids' Dolphin Dash, a two-mile Fun Walk, live entertainment and vendor booths.

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A thief nabbed $190,000 worth of jewelry from a vehicle, possibly while it was parked in the 500 block of Marguerite Avenue, according to police.

The theft occurred sometime between March 5 and April 12 and was reported Thursday, according to a report made available today. The stolen items included a gold ring with an emerald stone, a gold and diamond necklace and a bracelet with sapphires and diamonds, said Kathy Lowe, a Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman.

The police report listed the crime location on Marguerite Avenue, but Lowe said the vehicle was driven and parked at several locations during the time frame of the crime, so it's unknown exactly where the theft occurred.

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Cowbird Trap Set in Buck Gully

The Lower Buck Gully erosion control project's final phase is underway — trapping and removing nonnative brown-headed cowbirds.

A wildlife biologist set up a green metal trap March 15, placing it along the Hazel side of the gully not far from the final rock-filled cage that was installed late last year. The trap will remain in place through bird nesting season, or July 15, said Brian Leatherman, a wildlife biologist and owner of Yorba Linda-based Leatherman Bioconsulting Inc., who has a contract with the city of Newport Beach to trap and relocate the birds.

The trap has two birds already, aimed to attract other cowbirds, which are social creatures that tend to gather in flocks.

Leatherman or another biologist check the trap daily to make sure those birds have food, and to see if other birds have been trapped.

So far, no cowbirds have been trapped, although Leatherman has freed a few native finches. Traps can catch no birds or up to 30 birds in a season, he said.

The goal is to remove the non-native cowbirds, who lay eggs in other birds' nests and threaten those native birds' existence.

The Buck Gully erosion project used metal cages filled with rocks to slow and direct the flow of water from Buck Gully onto Little Corona Beach. Part of the project included removing non-native vegetation as well as the cowbirds.

"The area is planted, but it will take awhile for things to take hold and for the native birds to return," Leatherman said. "We can make it safe for them while that happens."

The traps will be in place during the spring nesting months for about five years.

amy@coronadelmartoday.com

Twitter: @coronadelmartdy

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