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Bell Canyon Regional Trail Opens to Public


Orange County hikers, bikers and equestrians got access to another wilderness playground when Bell Canyon Regional Riding and Hiking Trail was dedicated Monday.

The nine-mile trail links the Dove Canyon, Coto de Caza and Rancho Santa Margarita communities to Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park. Previously, residents of those areas had to drive to Ortega Highway to visit the park and use its nearly 30 miles of trails.

The new regional trail cuts through as especially scenic part of wilderness, said Jim Meyer, executive director of the Orange County trails-user group Trails4All, as long as you are looking east.

"If you make the mistake of turning around," Meyer said, "you see lot of new construction going up."

About 100 people showed up for the county's dedication ceremony Monday, including 30 or so equestrians who tried out the trail. Meyer was one of a few who rode his mountain bike partway up the trail from Caspers.

Meyer said the trail crosses a sizable creek and skirts a meadow and a forest, where he saw a herd of deer. "They just moved back a ways," Meyer said. "They didn't seem too perturbed."

The regional trail picks up at the border of Caspers and then hugs the boundary of the National Audubon Society's Starr Ranch Sanctuary.

The trail, on old ranching roads, has existed for years, but anyone using it was trespassing on the private Audubon Society land. This week the county completed the deal for an easement across a nearly mile-long portion of the sanctuary.

Pete DeSimone, manager of the sanctuary, hopes increased use doesn't lead to people exploring Starr Ranch, a pristine 4,000-acre preserve.

The sanctuary hosts many ongoing habitat research projects that would be irreparably damaged by people wandering through, DeSimone said.

"[The trail] makes Starr Ranch look inviting," DeSimone said, "but we have a lot at stake here and we hope people realize that it's not open to any kind of recreational use."

The sanctuary does have many public programs. For information call: (949) 858-0131.


Bruce Ayres of Newport Harbor Yacht Club dominated the Melges 24 class in the Sailing World National Offshore One-Design (NOOD) regatta Sunday in San Diego.

Ayres, skippering Monsoon with a crew of Don Smith of Long Beach and Dave Shelton and Bruce Edwards, both of Santa Cruz, never finished below third place in six races, winning three, in the three-day competition hosted by San Diego Yacht Club in the waters off Point Loma.

The NOOD is a series of regattas matching unmodified yachts. Ayres also won the Melges class in 1999 event in San Diego.

Melges 24s are single-hulled boats that are essentially scale-model versions of the state-of-the-art America's Cup yachts. It has become a popular class because its price tag of about $50,000 puts in within reach of more sailors.

"I've sailed all my life," said Ayres, who helps run his family's Southern California hotel chain. "I'm not a professional, but we like to sail against the best guys. That's why we picked the Melges class."

Ayres and Monsoon finished eighth in the 1999 world championships.

In the Santana 20 class, Tom Schock of Newport Beach and Still Wet held off Rick Harris of Coronado and Bustin' Loose to win. Gremlin, skippered by Gordan Wanlass of Newport Beach, finished third.

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