Politics and Spring Training

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My mother always thought that the term “summer afternoon” was the most melodious one in the English language.

For baseball fans, that’s arguable. For us, “pitchers and catchers report…” ranks high on the list of beguiling terms.

Just last week, major league pitchers and catchers did indeed report, which marks the beginning of spring training in Arizona’s cactus league and Florida’s grapefruit league. The players arrive there bringing to us fans the hope and joy and all that another spring promises.

Why babble on about baseball and spring and hope when, with each City Council meeting, concern grows over newly elected Team Newport’s erosion of civility and the lack of insight into how the city works?

This is a generality, though. Councilwoman Diane Dixon has been educating herself by inviting her constituents to Town Hall meetings on District 1 issues.

Meanwhile new Councilman Scott Peotter has focused on his personal agenda of ridding Civic Center Park of its Leporidaean art and the status of the fire rings on our beaches, while launching verbal attacks on his fellow councilman, Keith Curry.

Scott: This ain’t Costa Mesa, where such rancor has poisoned relations among residents, the council, and those who work for that city for some years now. As I recall, you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fans for gosh sake, a baseball team known for its teamwork.

Perhaps I’m in denial of such dismaying developments, and turn to baseball and spring because it’s more pleasant. Or maybe it’s all the emails I get from baseball pals back east and up north, who doubt spring will ever arrive given the winter they are still enduring.

Last week I was reminded all over again how fortunate we are to live where we do when I took a two-mile hike entitled “Flora and Fauna of Buck Gully.”

These hikes are one of the under-reported gems of our city, which contracts with the not-for-profit Irvine Ranch Conservancy to manage this small wildland.

Our volunteer naturalist/docent was Peter Ridley, who lives in Corona del Mar near Buck Gully, a coastal canyon that runs from San Joaquin Hills Road to Little Corona Beach. There’s even a creek that runs through it, a positive result of the drainage – aka urban run-off – from the landscaped homes and Pelican Hills Golf Course that overlook the canyon.

Along the way we crossed four solid bridges, which the City installed in 2012 to enable hikers and mountain-bikers to more safely cross the meandering creek.

By the time we hit the trail it was mid-morning, and the gray foxes, pocket gophers and ground squirrels, as well as the acorn woodpeckers, spotted towhees and lesser goldfinches had retired from their dawn foraging.

The Conservancy has worked to restore native species of flora, and as we walked Ridley pointed out various examples: fragrant black sage, the sagebrush plant (aka “cowboy cologne”) and the spring-flowering lupines. All simple unassuming plants, unlike the poison oak Ridley warned us away from. Yet as he pointed out, where you find poison oak you’ll find a nearby antidote: mugwort, whose leaves can be rubbed onto the skin should you brush against the former.

Would that the new councilmembers take note of such natural collaborations. Would that the new councilmembers take a moment to look back at the previous council’s work to enhance residents’ enjoyment of this small coastal canyon.

So please, celebrate spring, councilmembers! Contact Peter Ridley and see if he’ll lead you on a hike of Buck Gully. It takes a mere two hours. It might calm tempers and foster a more collegial approach to governance.

A few columns ago, I urged the City to declare 2105 the Year of the Environment. Let’s extend that suggestion to include a more agreeable climate in the City Council chambers.

To learn more about the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, visit irconservancy.org. To join a hike, visit LetsGoOutside.org.

Also not to be missed is this upcoming event about our environmental heritage, sponsored by the Concordia Institute for Public Policy at the Newport Beach Public Library: “A Century Beyond John Muir,” March 18, 6:00 p.m. Register at cui.edu/cpp.

Jean Ardell is President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club and serves as an Assembly District 74 delegate to the 2015 state Democratic convention. Contact her at [email protected].

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