Blazing sunshine greeted environmental enthusiasts Saturday at Upper Newport Bay’s inaugural events: Great Earth Walk and Estuary Awareness Day.
Education took center stage as walkers toured 900 acres of flower-dappled wetlands from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. with Newport Bay Naturalists.
Instead of celebrating Earth Day and Ocean Discovery Day, as was done in 13 previous years, both were combined into Estuary Awareness Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Shellmaker Island.
‘Last year, and previous years, we celebrated Earth Day as well as Ocean Discovery Day. We decided that both events kind of led to the same thing, educating people on the bay and estuary, so we combined it into Estuary Awareness Day this year. So we have combined the two events into one Estuary Awareness Day and we will go from here on forward with that program,’ said Orange County Head Ranger Joanette Willert.
Upper Newport Bay became a state ecological reserve in 1975 after a series of legal battles to preserve the wetlands from Irvine Company development.
Tide land is legally California state property and therefore not subject to private ownership, though the state had to purchase the reserve from the Irvine Company, according to Dennis Barker, on the Newport Bay Naturalists & Friends Board of Directors.