Four aluminum bridges, ranging in length from 35 to 50 feet, were installed in April and anchored in place. The bridges span areas that were previously traversed in ways that weren’t optimum for the traveler, or for the ecosystem. Conservationists and planners call trails like the ones forged in Buck Gully “social trails.” These trails are created by the trail users, and can create opportunities for weed invasion and erosion. Since the trails are not created by public landowners, social trails in some areas can even lead into private property, causing the user to trespass unknowingly.
“Some trails segmented habitats or created erosion, so when they were rerouted to a more sustainable path, the previous pathway was covered,” says Adam Maywhort, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Senior Planning and Field Operations Manager. “You may never see the old trail, since it is now hidden by new plantings, naturally-occurring plant debris, or boulders.”
For instance, one social trail was close to the stream that runs the length of Buck Gully, causing erosion that could affect vegetation and wildlife. The existing erosion was repaired, and the creek-side trail was moved to a more sustainable location. Now, with the bridges crossing four parts of the stream, you can stop and enjoy the water instead of worrying about how to get across without getting wet. Drainage across the trails was also improved by creating retention walls, new drainage paths and sloped trails to improve runoff.
Through its partnership with the City, Irvine Ranch Conservancy will lead regular public programs in Buck Gully, including docent-led hikes, mountain bike rides, and volunteer programs such as trail maintenance and weed removal. The removal of invasive weeds helps maintain healthy habitats for the diverse wildlife population in Buck Gully. Also critical to supporting wildlife is keeping the area dog-free. Not only does the presence of dogs disturb native wildlife routines, but dogs are also more susceptible to snake bites while wandering around on the trail.
The improvements are part of the City of Newport’s Resource and Recreation Management Plan for the 300-acre Buck Gully Reserve. The plan focuses on preserving and protecting the unique natural resources found in the area while providing opportunities for recreation. Upper Buck Gully includes two trails of varying length and difficulty: Bobcat Trail, 2.27 miles; and Bridge Trail, 1. 05 miles. The trails are accessed by entry points at the intersection of 5th and Poppy streets in Newport Beach, or from Canyon Watch Park on San Joaquin Hills Road. There is also an entry point on San Joaquin Hills Road near Newport Ridge Drive. The Upper Buck Gully trails will be open daily from dawn to dusk, as well as during scheduled programs.