About 35 people joined Mayor Nancy Gardner this morning on a 2.75 mile walk through Corona del Mar, which featured stops to review a few public works projects, local beaches, some history and updates on city issues like fire rings.
“This is active, outside and so informal,” said Corona del Mar resident Jacqueline Wittmeyer. “It’s a way to stay in touch. If you want to talk to the mayor or to the city manager, there they are. I love that.”
City Manager Dave Kiff and Kimberly Brandt, the city’s community development director, joined the walk, which began at 9 a.m. at the OASIS Senior Center. The group then walked along Fifth Avenue toward the new Upper Buck Gully trail head off Poppy Avenue, where Gardner explained the new trail that will be open to the public on May 30. She also pointed out a four-year-old erosion project as well as Buck Gully brush that will be cleared as part of new fire hazard rules.
“This has been the major fire concern for the fire department,” she said. “I was under the same misinterpretation as others are — that if it’s free, it’s OK. That’s not the case.”
The group next walked down Poppy past the Five Crowns Restaurant and down toward Little Corona State Beach, where they looked at the Lower Buck Gully erosion project. They passed an Ocean Boulevard home that has permits before the Coastal Commission, then headed down to Big Corona State Beach, where participants asked about fire rings and the concessions stand.
The concessions stand should be open by Memorial Day, Gardner said. The City Council voted to remove the fire rings, but the Coastal Commission will have to grant a permit.
“I don’t know how that will go down,” she said.
Gardner told stories of her childhood in Corona del Mar, explaining that as a biology assignment in high school, students were told to collect 100 samples of marine life — causing gasps from some of the participants, including Michelle Clemente, who is the Newport Beach marine education supervisor. Corona del Mar’s beaches are now considered special protected areas, and no rocks, shells or marine life are allowed to be removed.
The walk started with a cool 66 degree temperature, but at the beach, the sun was shining brightly.
“It never wears off,” said Adam Gafke, a participant and Newport Beach resident. “There’s no place better than Newport Beach.”
The group walked toward Goldenrod Avenue, and Gardner pointed out the two lots on Ocean Boulevard that may be merged — a controversial issue that has been before the City Council twice already. Next they walked over the Goldenrod Footbridge, where Gardner explained that the artist who created the city’s emblem had once lived and worked. Then they toward Harbor View Elementary School, with Gardner telling about how when she was young, the area beyond Fifth Avenue was undeveloped.
“I knew kids in school, they hunted pheasants and doves,” she said.
The group then cut through Grant Howald Park and back to the OASIS center, where city officials provided water, lemonade, nuts and granola bars.
“It was fun,” Gardner said after the walk, adding that she is working with staff to plan other walks in different parts of the city.
The past two mayors, Keith Curry and Mike Henn, held monthly Meet the Mayor events. But Gardner said sitting in a room to meet residents wasn’t her style, and she preferred a walk, where she could answer questions while being on the go.
Participants said the walk was enjoyable and informative.
“I love seeing where they’re putting in trails,” said Diane West of Corona del Mar. “I’m a walker. I think it’s very nice that Mayor Gardner took the time to do this.”