State’s 1,230 mile coastal trail 70% complete, according to new online map

California’s decades-old dream of building a coastal trail that covers all 1,230 miles from Mexico to Oregon is about 70% complete, but that accomplishment comes with good news and bad news.

A detailed map unveiled online Wednesday, May 12, shows numerous long stretches where you can walk or bike along the shore, like the 23-mile trek from the Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula to the Port of Long Beach. The map, three years in the making, is a project of the state’s Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy, two of the state agencies teaming up on the trail.

But the map also shows miles-long gaps, with no pedestrian paths and no clear plans for them, including much of Big Sur and Camp Pendleton. Other areas have interruptions to the trail, are unsafe or difficult to navigate, or diverge significantly inland from the coast.

  • Walkers, runners and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A cyclist uses the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Walkers and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Walkers, runners and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dog walker Megan Stogner, with Fitdog, walks along the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Walkers, runners and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The new, interactive map was celebrated by the Coastal Commission at its Wednesday meeting as both a key planning step toward filling in the gaps and a tool general public can use to identify locations and types of trails, which traverse beaches, blufftops and hillsides.

Prior to the meeting, Coastal Commission program manager Linda Locklin detailed how the map will help CalTrans incorporate trails into future roadwork, and help identify sites for public easements or state purchase. More than 40% of the coastline is publicly owned, and there’s coordination with local and federal entities for trails on their land.

“We don’t know what the future brings, but knowing what’s missing will help decision makers come up with solutions,” Locklin said. “We don’t expect that (all) the missing segments will be bridged in the next 10 (or) 20 years, but every foot of trail that gets built will be that much closer to completion.”

The goal of creating a statewide coastal trail network was established in the 1975 California Coastal Plan and has been slowly gaining momentum. In 1999 it was recognized as “California’s Millennium Legacy Trail” by Gov. Gray Davis and the White House Millennium Council. It was declared an official state trail by the state Legislature in 2002, and received legislative approval for measures in 2001 and 2007 that promoted development of the trail.

CalTrans planner Jeremiah Ketchum offered praise for the help the new map provided his agency.

“CalTrans has been looking forward to this,” Ketchum told the Coastal Commission. “We will work this into our planning and help bridge the gaps.”

Though the map provides a new tool to the agency, CalTrans has been a partner on the trail project since 2007. Locklin noted several CalTrans contributions, including help in funding an inland pedestrian trail through a portion of Big Sur after a landslide left no room on State Route 1, and transforming abandoned highways into trails in San Luis Obisbo, San Mateo and Sonoma counties.

The map delineates where you can walk on the beach from other trails, and distinguishes dedicated bike paths from general-use trails. In some areas, there is more than one trail — they combine for 875 miles of trail so far. 

“The California Coastal Trail is one of the only flagship trails in the country that is accessible to almost everyone,” said Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Sam Schuchat.

“Many Californians have walked a segment or two without even realizing it. With this map, people can find trail segments easily, as well as public access points to get to the shore.”

Orange County girls athlete of the week: Sarah MacCallum, Laguna Beach

The Orange County girls athlete of the week:

Name: Sarah MacCallum

School: Laguna Beach

Sports: Tennis

Year: Junior

Noteworthy: MacCallum upset top-seeded Mika Ikemori of Marina 6-4, 1-6, 10-2 to capture the singles title in the Wave League. In the semifinals, the No. 2 seeded MacCallum defeated teammate and No. 3 Katelyn Smith 6-1, 6-4.

Please send nominees for girls athlete of the week to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter and Instagram

Bubble Watch: Are Zillow home searches better than sex?

Bubble Watch” digs into trends that may indicate economic and/or real estate market troubles ahead.

Buzz: A Saturday Night Live skit and a poll suggest many Americans would rather browse homes on Zillow than have sex.

Source: The nation’s comedy show from Feb. 6 and a survey of 1,000-plus Americans by a construction bond provider, Surety First, released last month.

The Trend

How “hot” is housing coming out of the pandemic era? Well, the SNL comedians and a poll strongly suggest there’s a growing — and perhaps troublesome — love for virtual house hunting. Zillow’s search tool, by one count, gets 30% of all online requests for housing information.

The Dissection

Perhaps folks who choose real estate searches over sex are in a really bad relationship and need a new place to call home.

The Home Stretch newsletter features housing news from the region! Subscribe here.

Or maybe the pandemic changed life’s priorities and/or passions. Fear of catching coronavirus altered how many folks live. That made finding a new residence a major priority.

But did you notice a few friends becoming extra neurotic about housing in the past year? And I mean normal folks, not real estate agents.

In February, one SNL bit was styled as a fake, sultry advertisement — the type often seen in the wee hours. It was a pitch for a new source of erotic pleasure — yup, Zillow. 

“The pleasure you once got from sex now comes from looking at other people’s houses,” was perhaps the most telling line.

Then there’s the poll that found 49% of those surveyed prefer a Zillow home search to sex.

That’s not the only twisted thinking — 60% of those surveyed say they spent one hour or more a day browsing homes. And 56% canceled plans with friends to search Zillow. And 41% have had problems with their work or in their personal life due to home browsing.

To be fair, for a second, some of this property eyeballing is could be part-hobby.

I’ll note the poll found 27% of people browse homes to relax. This group must be homeowners tracking the paper profits the housing boom created.

Meanwhile, 30% browse homes they can’t afford. Could they be folks simply dreaming of fantasy living? Or depressed renters priced out of the market?

Quotable

“Sex isn’t doing it for you anymore. You need something new. Something exciting,” goes the SNL skit.

“Zillow offers an escape from the monotony of too much time spent at home, and more and more site visitors may just be there to dream a little,” Surety First stated. “But just like any escape, too much of a good thing can have its downsides.”

How bubbly?

On a scale of zero bubbles (no bubble here) to five bubbles (five-alarm warning) … SIX BUBBLES!

You don’t need a trusty spreadsheet to know that it’s very unnerving when the nation’s top comedy show and poll results suggest the house-hunting obsession provides odd benefits — a new sensual pleasure. Talk about “irrational exuberance!”

This is another signal the pandemic’s homebuying binge is suffering at an unknown level from “FOMO” — that’s the “fear of missing out” on a sizzling trend.

Is this surprising surge for ownership based on sustainable economic fundamentals that include an odd gift — overly cheap mortgage rates created by the Federal Reserve?

Or is this feeding frenzy for homes more about people desperately wanting a piece of the real estate excitement?

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

Why is an octopus on a telephone booth in Laguna Beach’s downtown?

A huge, red octopus clinging to the top of the iconic red phone booth in downtown Laguna Beach is drawing lots of attention.

The multi-tentacled creature appeared recently among two temporary art installations dedicated by the city’s Arts Commission.

The other, a group of life-sized, stainless steel sharks, is in front of Laguna Beach City Hall. Both sculptures, which embrace the community’s love and appreciation of the ocean and its environment, are part of the commission’s public art program and will be on display for the next three months.

  • A red octopus clings to the top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A shark sculpture is on display in front of city hall in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. The other is a red octopus on top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A red octopus clings to the top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A red octopus clings to the top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A shark sculpture is on display in front of city hall in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. The other is a red octopus on top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • People pass shark sculptures in front of city hall in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. The other is a red octopus on top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A red octopus clings to the top of a phone booth on Forest Ave. in Laguna Beach, CA on Monday, May 10, 2021. The sculpture one of two temporary art installations. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The octopus piece was created by Laguna Beach artist Jeffrey Skarvan and titled “Call to Action” to inspire appreciation of the ocean habitat.

“It is poised atop and embracing the red phone booth partially filled with ocean water, its vibrant color and presence suggesting a ‘call’ to action to the viewer; to appreciate nature’s beauty,” Skarvan said.

Adam Schwerner, the Art Commission’s chair, said in a statement, “After the year we have had, the commission was attracted to the whimsy of his proposal.”

Just a short block away, “Shark Migration” is by Laguna Beach artist Casey Parlette, a commercial diver and former Laguna Beach lifeguard.

Parlette said he focused on sharks in this particular piece to create greater public awareness about the importance of the animals he considers to be too often demonized.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the water and I’ve noticed less sharks out there,” he said. “Shark populations are declining around the world. Lots of times, sharks represent mindless killing machines. I want to portray them as the beautiful, graceful creatures they are.”

Parlette’s piece shows four shark species – a thresher, a blue, a hammerhead and a leopard – all of which can be seen off the Southern California coast.

“My hope is that by portraying them as beautiful, they can help change people’s perception,” he said. “It would be terrible to see them lost.

“The goal,” he said, “is to spark the conversation.”

He hopes the piece can later move to another city to further spread its message of conservation.

Parlette, who also exhibits at the Festival of Arts, mostly creates wildlife sculptures using natural elements such as wood, bronze, steel and concrete.

This is his second public art installation. A permanent piece was placed at the end of Heisler Park over Diver’s Cove in 2017.

Partlette’s temporary exhibit was funded by Laguna Beach residents Mark Porterfield and Steve Chadima through the commission’s public art donation process.

Camp Pendleton is first to train young infantry Marines for a new type of fight

All the squads of young Marines at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry knew was their training scenario had them tossed from a Navy boat to swim 300 meters to the shore of an island.

Achieving the mock invasion set in the South China Sea as a group was up to them.

Dressed in full combat gear, they pushed through the water. Stronger swimmers went ahead to secure and set up sentries, while some swam back to help Marines who were struggling. By thinking and working together they successfully completed their mission.

The exercise was among the last this group of 138 Marines was evaluated on during their 14th and final week of a new course being piloted for them to become infantry Marines and earn the title of rifleman. Teamwork is a key element as the Marine Corps tries to develop infantry Marines with more varied skills, students are now learning information in bits and pieces and then translating the information in action – using as much brain as brawn, officials said.

  • A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, holds onto his pack while conducting a 300-meter squad swim as part of the capstone exercise for the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, April 28, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jeremy Laboy)

  • U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, make their final movement as part of the last event of a five-day capstone exercise for the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, April 30, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jeremy Laboy)

  • U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 A.J. Pasciuti, the battalion gunner for Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, crosses the smoky finish line for the final movement of a five-day capstone exercise for the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, April 30, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jeremy Laboy)

  • A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, takes an exam as part of the capstone exercise for the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, April 28, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jeremy Laboy)

  • U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, take simulated artillery fire during the last event of a five-day capstone exercise for the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jeremy Laboy)

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And, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger sees the watery Indo-Pacific with its small island chains as one of the future regions where the Corps will likely be needed, necessitating a change to how young Marines are taught so they can work more with the Navy versus in recent decades spent in the deserts with the Army.

In this new course debuted on the West Coast, infantry Marines were trained to swim for the first time. By the end, and just in time for the amphibious exercise, 90% had shown they had the necessary skills to survive in deep water.

“In the beginning, my swim skills weren’t very good,” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Haar, of Temecula.  “But the way they designed it, you got what you put into it. Each week my skills got progressively better and in the end, I had no second doubt.”

The swim component also follows recent new protocols instituted after an amphibious assault vehicle sank during a July 30 training exercise off San Clemente Island. Eight infantry Marines and a Navy corpsman died. Several Marines had poor swimming skills and were not trained to get out of a sinking vehicle, an investigation said.

“This is totally different than how we trained for the last 70 years,” said Lt. Col. Walker Koury, an infantry Marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and headed up the pilot.

“We need to make sure they are confident in every way in the water,” said Koury, also a platoon commander during the 2004 First Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. “Coming in on an AAV or Osprey is the old way. The idea now is we can toss them into the water and we have a Marine that is flexible. We don’t train them to a specific thing; we train them to be confident for anything.”

The newly-minted riflemen platoons will be kept together as units to maintain their new-found cohesion but sent to infantry units across the Marine’s three divisions.  In June, a second pilot will start and will include three women who graduated on Thursday, May 6, in the first integrated recruit class at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Feedback on the students’ success at Camp Pendleton’s school and another on the East Coast will be reviewed before the program is finalized next year.

Developing the curriculum

To create the new course, instructors tuned the curriculum to skills that this new generation of Marines already has.

“We recognize our students are no longer Millennials; they’re Gen Z Marines and we looked at what makes this generation tick,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 AJ Pasciuti, the school’s battalion gunner, said of working with Koury to develop the course. “They are faster, more capable, more adaptive than any previous generation because they are more connected to the world.

“From infancy, they’ve had more thrown at them and they can adapt,” he said. “We just gave them bits of information and told them how to do it and they go along.”

By breaking the Marines into small squads, there was more ownership among the members. Students had pride in their leader and the sergeants had pride in the trajectory of their students.

“We made small teams of people who trust each other,” Pasciuti said.

Classroom use was minimal.

After instruction on a topic, students were given complex situations to test their skills. Providing itemized gear lists and marching from location to location are gone.

During the first nine weeks, Marines were taught individual skills such as weapons manipulation, land navigation and radio communication. The next four weeks tested their new knowledge as the students worked in squads and patrolled complex terrain, fired weapons and practiced maneuver tactics.

For Lance Cpl. Aaron Carrera, of Riverside, the training really made sense.  He had been partway through an earlier course before he was plucked to participate in the pilot.

“With smaller teams, everyone understood why we were shooting the way we were,” the 19-year-old said. “Guys that were better moved aside and let others who were struggling get more time.”

And, along with being taught the standard M27 rifle, students learned how to operate multiple weapons including machine guns and anti-tank missiles.

“The idea is that if only 12 guys are on an island, they’re all proficient on all weapons,” Koury said.

Final review

For their final test, students had to string together everything they learned over the past 14 weeks.

The capstone event began with a 72-hour force-on-force operation. Here students used their tactics to patrol and fight against a thinking, breathing enemy.

“In the past, we operated in an environment where we were absolutely superior,” Pasciuti said. “Mistakes that we got away with then – with help from air superiority or nearby coalition forces – we might not be able to get away with in the future. This teaches tactical prowess to out-think and hunt your enemy.”

Following the recon and attack missions, students had just three hours before getting ready for the amphibious assault exercise.

Pfc. Jake Sanchez, of La Mirada, was somewhat confident.

“I grew up surfing at the beach,” he said, adding that the swim component was his favorite. “It’s important because we need to be versatile on land and in the water in case of a mishap.”

But when Sanchez got into the pool, with all his gear, he said he realized the experience would be a lot different than hitting the waves on his board at San Onofe State Beach.

“I didn’t think it would be that hard,” he said.

The week ended with a 32-kilometer trek.  As squads neared the finish line, yellow-greenish smoke surrounded them and emerging from it they looked in disbelief to see tables set up with chow.

“That day, we were slayed,” Haar said. “We were sitting at our tables enjoying our meals and the regimental commander came out and quoted the Jungle Book: ‘For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.’”

“That really put it into perspective,” Haar said.

For, Koury who will retire later this year after 20 years in the Marines, this opportunity stands out as a highlight.

“We’re dinosaurs passing the torch,” he said. “It’s an awesome experience.

“These guys are way better trained than the Marines I led,” he said. “The future fight will be much more complex.”