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Volunteer gets dirt on Back Bay

Retired mechanical engineer compiles book on plants in the salt marsh; collection considered a valuable resource.

July 16, 2007|By Alicia Robinson

Two years later came version 2. He makes updates to the CD-ROM version of the guide, and he gave copies to friends who helped gather the information. For now, the only hard copy is at the interpretive center, although offering the guide for sale has been discussed.

Newell said what makes Millar's guide special is that while most published field guides are general, maybe describing all types of wildflowers or the plants of Southern California, his is specific to the Back Bay's habitat.

Millar is also interested in the area's birds and wildlife, but those are much harder to photograph.

"You get too close to a bird, it scares it away," he said. "The plants, they kind of stay there — they're rooted in the ground."

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Millar said he probably spends about 30 hours a month in the Back Bay, leading naturalist walks and boat tours, and helping with bat and bird surveys.

It's important to him to help undo the damage people and time have wrought on the Back Bay over the years, because it's sort of his outdoor gym — but there's more to it than exercise.

"Part of it is giving back," Millar said. "I really feel that the debt that we owe not only to the planet but to the people that came before is almost insurmountable."

Volunteer naturalist Don Millar created a guide to the plants of the Upper Newport Bay. A copy of the guide is on display at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, or it can be viewed here. Or, watch a video of Millar discussing plants.


  • ALICIA ROBINSON may be reached at (714) 966-4626 or at alicia.robinson@latimes.com.

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