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Park blazes a new trail

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park adds a route called ‘Mary’s Trail,’ in honor of founding executive director of foundation.

June 02, 2009|By Barbara Diamond

Mary Fegraus is usually one to avoid the spotlight.

But the spotlight shone on her Saturday at the dedication of “Mary’s Trail” in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The ceremony was attended by environmental activists, county officials and admirers of Fegraus, the founding executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation.

“I want to thank Mary for all her work for the past two decades,” Supervisor Pat Bates said. “She helped raise $13 million to enhance, protect and preserve these wild lands. And her trail is the gateway to the wilderness park.”

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The trail is an easy, introductory quarter-mile loop for hikers of all ages and abilities. It takes off from the Painter Pier at the Nix Nature Center and links up with the Little Sycamore Canyon Trail, Barbara’s Lake Trail, the James Dilley Preserve — the cradle of the wilderness park acquisitions — and the Stagecoach North Trail.

“I think Mary was leading us before we even recognized there were leaders in the preservation of Laguna Canyon,” said Harry Huggins, Orange County Parks’ asset manager and organizer of the famous “Walk” in Laguna Canyon in 1989 that led to the city’s acquisition of the first parcel of Laguna Laurel, then an Irvine Co. development.

Laguna Woods Councilman Marty Rhodes, a Laguna Canyon Foundation board member, said the trail dedication was the culmination of Fegraus’ years of leadership that have made the foundation viable.

“She is the glue and the heart and soul of this park,” said Bates’ top staffer, Sergio Prince.

Laguna Canyon Foundation founder and President Michael Pinto said working with Fegraus was the greatest personal and professional relationship he had ever had.

Pinto, who served as master of ceremonies at the dedication, introduced speakers Mark Denny, director of Orange County Parks; Michael O’Connell, executive director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy; former Orange County Supervisor Tom Wilson and nature center donor James Nix, all of whom recognized Fegraus’ contributions. Fegraus declined to accept the accolades for herself.

In 2005, when the city called for construction bids to build the Nix Nature Center at the park’s entrance, Orange County Parks Chief of Design Scott Thomas asked that companies include an introductory trail as part of their designs. The trail was later deleted from the requirements.

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