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In The Pipeline: The O'Reilly factor at Bolsa Chica

February 22, 2012|By Chris Epting
  • A bike rider at Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
A bike rider at Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

"It's not a park, it's an ecological reserve!"

So intoned my friend Ross Griswold, who tracks bird behavior at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

We ran into each other the other day on the trail and ended up lamenting the ever-increasing abuses by dog owners and bike riders in and around the wetlands.

The encroachment is getting bad to a point that you'd almost think the place had been officially declared a dog and bike park — and as usual, the offenders become indignant, dismissive and even violent when it is politely pointed out to them that what they are doing has deep, harmful ramifications. (I have been threatened numerous times for simply saying, "Are you aware that dogs are not allowed here? And that there are leash laws?")

I addressed this in several columns last year and received an abundance of feedback (99% positive), but in view of what I've noticed to be even greater numbers of offenders these days, it seemed like it might be worth a reprise of the topic.

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Griswold's point is a great one — the wetlands area is not a park. It's a fragile, ecological house of cards that many people work hard to keep in balance — people like Kelly O'Reilly, an environmental scientist for the Department of Fish and Game at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

"People's behavior is very disappointing," she told me. "I was raised to be respectful, so when someone starts yelling nasty, vicious things at me for gently letting them know the law, it's upsetting. It's great you love your pet, but there are so many other places in Huntington Beach to take your dog."

She wears a uniform, yet still gets ignored by the self-entitled. O'Reilly described to me a number of situations where dog-walkers and bike-riders have become abusive, in front of children and in front of parents — rare is the person who simply respects the law (or even apologizes for perhaps being unaware of the situation).

The ugly confrontation is the usual par for the course.

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