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LIFE & TIMES / WENDY MILLER

A Front Seat View of the Wall Controversy

May 12, 1994|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

People often wonder where editors and reporters get ideas for stories.

Sometimes it's as easy as looking out the window.

It was the view through my windshield that inspired this week's Centerpiece story on The Great Divide, the concrete barrier that runs along a two-mile stretch of the Ventura Freeway. The wall separates the highway from a strip of beach called the Rincon (Spanish for corner).

This part of road is where U. S. 101 and Highway 1 are one, and drivers commuting between Central Coast cities invariably find themselves here.

I, being one such driver, have traveled that stretch nearly 1,000 times, a spectator to the ebb and flow of the sea, the greening and browning of the hillside, the dodging and weaving of speeders and the best laid plans of Caltrans.

Over the last several months, one of those plans seemed to be made manifest in bits and pieces. First a barrier went up, then it came down. Signs went up, then they came down. A new barrier arose. This one stayed.

It all seemed a little strange, and often when things seem strange, journalists get interested. I did. And so did staff writer Jeff Meyers, but not at first.

"I didn't see a cement wall becoming a cover story," Meyers said. "But anytime an editor wants to pay me to take a spin up the coast, I turn into an eager-beaver reporter."

A quick look convinced Meyers that he had found more than a strategic place to watch dolphins cavort in the ocean. After talking to residents of nearby La Conchita and cyclists who use the southbound shoulder as a key route up and down the coast, he recognized a boondoggle when he saw one.

"Caltrans spent $400,000 to make the highway safe for motorists and cyclists, but hardly anybody is pleased with the result," Meyers said.

The wall even managed to offend Surfrider, an environmentally active surfers' organization. And now the Coastal Commission is getting involved. We eagerly await the next chapter in the saga of the Grating Wall of Ventura County.

Since that stretch of U.S. 101 at the Rincon is one section of the Bicentennial Bike Trail, recreational riders might have another reason for reading our Centerpiece package: We list the bike routes all over the county considered most dangerous by expert cyclists.

For those who take their thrills and spills vicariously, Jaunts columnist Jane Hulse writes about the Camarillo Air Show, where this weekend you can watch some very brave souls take to the skies and performing daring feats.

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