Today the City of Newport Beach took an exciting step closer to completing renovation and restoration activities in the Buck Gully Preserve. After months of work restoring and modifying trails through Upper Buck Gully, four bridges were lifted by helicopter over the canyon and set in place along a new trail. The carefully orchestrated helicopter operation was organized by Irvine Ranch Conservancy, working closely with City 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 bridges are up to 50 feet in length and were lifted out of Canyon Watch Park on San Joaquin Hills Road. Helicopter pilot Glenn Smith of Atlas Airlift Helicopter Company lifted the bridges one by one and set them in place with the help of Atlas and Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and volunteers. The Conservancy crew also worked with Newport Beach Police Department officers along San Joaquin Hills Road to secure the area around Canyon Watch Park, keeping pedestrians and motorists out of the helicopter’s flight path. The close coordination between all organizations resulted in an efficient and safe operation that lasted just 30 minutes.
The bridges will provide access to two renovated trails in Upper Buck Gully. The improvements are part of the City’s Resource and Recreation Management Plan for the Buck Gully Reserve, which focuses on preserving and protecting the unique natural resources found in the 300-acre area while providing opportunities for recreation. The City tapped Irvine Ranch Conservancy to manage the improvements, which includes creating a more sustainable trail loop, creating crossings with the four bridges and three culverts, repairing erosion damage, and clearing trails. In 2008 the Conservancy interviewed trail users for their input before work began.
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 Conservancy will also construct benches along the trails, install new access gates and create informational kiosks at each trailhead.