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DISCOVERY

For a Walden Touch in Suburbia, Find Hidden Laguna Lake

June 02, 1988|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Part of the beauty of Laguna Lake is the sense of the unexpected: You are absolutely certain it isn't going to be where it is.

You turn west off Harbor Boulevard onto Hermosa Drive and find yourself in the kind of residential area typical of much of the north Fullerton-Sunny Hills area: low-slung, rambling, ranch-style houses; well-tended lawns and gardens, and relatively tight density. You know what to expect. Schoolyards, an occasional pocket park.

And then there is this blaze of green and yellow lily pads and kids with fishing rods looking like Huck Finns in Reeboks and couples lounging in the sun and ducks and geese gliding on the rippling water.

There it is, in the center of upper-middle-class domesticity--the old fishin' hole.

"People have a hard time believing that it's right there, right in the middle of a residential area," said Wes Morgan, Fullerton Community Services manager. "The residents near there really value it. It really adds to their neighborhood."

Not to say that nearby residents are the only visitors to the lake. For others who know it's there, and who don't mind an afternoon of relaxation in depth, Laguna Lake is a bit like Doonesbury's Walden Puddle--too small to be imposing and too large to be inconsequential. It is an oasis of calm where the principal pastime is loafing.

Goofing off isn't absolutely required, however. There is a bridle trail around the lake that is used by both equestrians and joggers. And there are outdoor barbecues and picnic benches for those who get tired of simply lounging in the shade of tall trees that ring the lake.

The principal recreation at Laguna Lake, however, is fishing. Lazy fishing. This is not the sort of lake where intrepid sportsmen stalk the wily bass. No one is tricked out in thousands of dollars of Abercrombie & Fitch safari gear. No boats are groaning under the weight of the latest in fish-finding electronics.

Nope, here folks fish from the bank, and their quarry is the so-what bluegill. Every six months, 3,000 pounds of the little fish are sluiced into the lake. If the postures of most of the people fishing for them are an indication, nobody seems to care.

Sure, occasionally one or two fish get reluctantly hauled in, but at Laguna Lake catching a fish is more a distraction than a sporting triumph. This isn't a place to fish. It's a place to go fishin'.

The lake didn't used to look as good as it does now, Morgan said. For several years, a buildup of debris and natural waste was polluting the lake. But six years ago, the city installed on the lake bottom an aeration system--perforated pipes that injected cleansing air into the water.

"It really saved the whole environment of the lake," he said.

Originally a natural lake and reservoir, Laguna Lake is now fed by an automated water system to keep its level consistent, Morgan said. But the ducks don't seem to notice, and neither do visitors, who come to stroll, or sit, or picnic. Or even catch up on a little sleep.

LAGUNA LAKE AT A GLANCE

Where: Off Hermosa Drive, west of Harbor Boulevard in north Fullerton.

Hours: 7 a.m. until dusk.

Facilities: Picnic tables, benches, restrooms, outdoor barbecues, bridle trails that connect to county horse trails (no rental stables in or near the park).

Recreation: Fishing, jogging, horseback riding. No camping, swimming or boating permitted.

Admission: Free

Day Camp: Weekdays from June 20 through Sept. 2 through the Fullerton Community Services office. Fishing, crafts, games, group activities and excursions. For more information, call 738-6575.

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