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LATER:Walking the walk

SAVE OUR CANYONS WALK 17 YEARS

Group that helped stage massive demonstration against development in Laguna Canyon is re-enacting the event

November 10, 2006|By Candice Baker

Today, a panoramic black-and-white poster featuring a crowd of people hangs on the wall above Charles Michael Murray's desk.

Tomorrow, faces from that poster will join new ones in front of the Festival of Arts grounds to hold a reenactment of the 1989 Save Our Canyons Walk.

The original event, which had been Orange County's largest environmental protest, proved to be a catalyst in protecting Laguna Canyon from development by the Irvine Co.

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"A lot of people don't really understand how we have the luxury of this canyon," Murray said. "[The walk] ultimately protected the true paradise and jewel that we have in Orange County, and raised the awareness that people can make a difference."

As the concept creator for the original event, he was responsible for increasing public awareness, so he coordinated a radio campaign whereby a 30-second spot was played on 11 stations at least once an hour for three days.

"It had a psychological impact before the event," said Harry Huggins, original executive director of the event.

Murray found out what radio station was played in the Irvine Co. offices and chose it, along with 10 others, for the broadcast.

Some people from the Irvine Co. walked with other activists that day, Murray recalled.

Grammy Award-winning singer and guitarist Jose Feliciano narrated the announcement and dropped the names of several celebrities like Bette Midler and John Denver who had endorsed the campaign.

"Remember — once it's gone, it's gone forever," he intoned.

Feliciano recorded it the day of a City Council meeting, Murray recalled; he picked the tape up at 4:30 p.m. and ran it to the meeting with a boom box. He handed it to Huggins, who played it during the open mic portion of the meeting.

From there, it was off to the radio waves.

"It was so contagious," Murray said.

"It had everyone excited about going," Huggins said. "Although only 8,000 people showed up, a good many more had wanted to be there, but the importance of the 8,000 brought the Irvine Co. to a realization that more energy was behind the protest than had been estimated."

The company later went into negotiations to relinquish the properties in question.

There are parcels that have yet to be acquired, Huggins said, but four are in the process right now along Laguna Canyon Road.

"The city continues to be exemplary in its acquisition of open space," Huggins said, but he cited the need for future conservation efforts.

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