Orange County's canyon lovers are understandably saddle sore after the Orange County Board of Supervisors' Jan. 28 meeting.
Residents of the canyons and those who wish to protect their natural beauty from untoward development made what might be their last stand against Saddle Creek and Saddle Crest.
The two residential developments would add 162 homes and spell doom for nearly 500 mature trees, many of them oaks. They would join Saddleback Meadows, a 238-home project proposed for land also in the shadow of South County landmark Old Saddleback.
Supervisors approved Saddle Creek and Saddle Crest in a unanimous vote on the day voters in the 3rd District, which incorporates the canyons, elected former Assemblyman Bill Campbell to fill the seat vacated by former Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
The board's action frustrated canyon folk who had pushed unsuccessfully to delay the vote for a week so the newly elected supervisor could show his development colors.
Supervisors instead extended Campbell a bit of professional courtesy by approving the developments, freeing Campbell, who must run again for the seat late in 2004, from being saddled with any political baggage from the controversial vote.
Some would dismiss the Jan. 28 faceoff as business as usual for canyon dwellers, many of whom would have flatlanders believe that their lives are summed up by the names of two short streets that branch off Live Oak Canyon Road -- Hunky Dory and Oakie Dokie lanes.
And, truth be told, residents with ready access to bulldozers and backhoes have sparked their share of land-use disputes. But the residential projects and strip mall recently approved for the narrow canyons are dramatically larger than any previous ones.
Those who haven't seen the canyons in their relatively undisturbed form still have time for a quiet walk along the Shrine Trail that stretches behind the Ramakrishna Monastery. Walk along the dirt path, stop at the statue of Buddha, the Star of David, the cross, the crescent. Listen to hummingbirds winging their way from flower to flower. Breathe in the back-country fragrances. On the horizon, Santa Catalina Island is often visible. So are the red-tiled roofs of ever-nearer subdivisions. The sounds of suburbia, though, are soothingly absent.
Sit in the shade of a particularly magnificent live oak and contemplate the future framed by surveyor's sticks poked into the nearby hillside that would be leveled to clear the way for Saddleback Meadows.
And try to hold onto the memory of an increasingly rare vista in a part of the county where not everything is okey-dokey.