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JAUNTS : Greenbelt Shared by Wildlife, Bicyclists and Wedding Parties : Bubbling Springs Recreation Corridor in Port Hueneme is a peaceful, landscaped walkway that meanders to the ocean.

August 17, 1995|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's no telling what wildlife you might see if you take a stroll along Port Hueneme's Bubbling Springs Recreation Corridor, which follows a stream that meanders nearly two miles through the city to the ocean.

The greenbelt is home to ducks, herons, egrets, terns, opossums. Former Mayor Dorill Wright thought he had seen it all until one day a couple of years ago when he spotted what looked like a fur coat tossed into the stream.

"Suddenly up popped two beady eyes, then a tail," Wright recalled. "It was a muskrat. No one else has ever seen one, but I saw one."

Usually, though, the best sights on the Bubbling Springs walkway are not animal, but human.

Boys with big buckets, nets and fishing poles fashioned from twigs scramble down the bank in search of crawdads. Photographers pose nervous couples in all their wedding finery on a picturesque wooden bridge, with huge sycamores and oaks serving as the backdrop.

Jerry Lucid, 72, walks a mile or so on the trail every day, accompanied by his Boston bull terrier, Popo.

"This is a nice area," he said. "I like the privacy."

Indeed, it is a quiet oasis in the heart of the city. It starts at Bard Road and J Street, winds south past neighborhoods of modest bungalows and stylish townhomes and ends near the Dorill B. Wright Cultural Center and the Port Hueneme Pier.

The walkway is paved the entire distance along the creek, attracting bicyclists and families with strollers. But be aware that you'll have to cross two busy streets--Pleasant Valley Road and Hueneme Road--if you take it from one end to the other.

Otherwise, it's a nice stretch of landscaped greenery dotted with big, old trees. The stream carries only a trickle of water in places, with cattails shooting up here and there. It's idyllic, but not perfect. You'll see some trash strewn about in spots. Graffiti disappears as soon it goes up, thanks to the city's aggressive removal program.

If you start at the Bard Road end, you walk through Bubbling Springs Park, with its ball fields, picnic areas and playgrounds. It's here that the stream bubbles up from underground--hence the name--and meanders to the ocean.

But 20 years ago, it hardly looked as it does today.

"It was an overgrown cattail-and-weed-infested marshy channel," said Wright, mayor at the time. "It was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There was no constant flow of fresh water."

It never was a natural creek. Decades ago, farmers in south Oxnard installed an underground drainage network that created a spring. When development replaced the farms, the system continued to drain water underground from lawns and streets.

Wright said flood control officials wanted to line the channel with concrete, but city officials opted instead to make it a landscaped greenbelt. They haven't regretted it, and neither has the wildlife.

"We started with a pair of ducks that hatched out of a nest in the flower beds beside the cultural center," he said. "Now we have dozens."

Along the walkway, you'll see families feeding the ducks. You'll see some other sights too, like the city water tower that looms high over homes. With its striped paint job, it looks like a hot air balloon.

For Port Hueneme residents, the route is a pleasant way to get from the center of the city to the beach or the pier, a popular spot for fishing. Although the greenbelt has been in place almost 20 years, it's still not that well-known, even to some locals.

Eric Hartman was walking the trail with his wife and two young sons on a recent weekend. "I went to Hueneme High School and I never knew it was here until today," he said.

Details

* WHAT: Bubbling Springs Recreation Corridor.

* WHERE: From Bard Road near J Street to Port Hueneme Beach Park near the Port Hueneme Pier.

* CALL: 488-3625.

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