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Commentary: Preserve the fire rings, sense of place

March 13, 2013

Community. That is what fire rings represent in our beach community.

A chance for locals, and not-so-local people, to come together and go to the beach to have an outdoor experience on which quality lives and quality memories are built: celebrations of birthdays, wedding receptions, Fourth of July parties, personal-growth ceremonies, religious ceremonies and more.

If you have not noticed, perfectly planned communities such as Newport Coast and Irvine lack a sense of community.

There is a sterility to these communities because there is no sense of place. As you may have witnessed by now, building perfectly groomed bike paths, parks and sidewalks does not create a sense of community. The master plan makes for a nice postcard but does not necessarily make a great community.

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A sense of place is necessary for a community. There needs to be a there, there! A place where people can come together for intimate gatherings, to play or share their joys, their hopes, their traditions, their sorrows, their celebrations or beliefs.

That is what these fire rings at our beaches represent to most people in Orange County. A place to experience a sense of community.

Newport Coast had to build a community center after building the perfect master-planned community because there was no community in the neighborhoods. Covered benches and more volleyball courts and plastic playgrounds add a feeling of sterilization to our beaches, not accessibility. We become more like Newport Coast and Irvine. Community is organic and created over time.

The idea that lives are being negatively affected because of the resulting smoke is just that, a bunch of smoke! No one forces anyone to live at the beach; it is a choice. No one forces anyone to work out at the beach; it is a choice.

Try breathing while working out at the beach on a busy Saturday or Sunday when all the boats are out in force. The negative quality of air with all the pollution from all the nonregulated boat exhaust is extreme, to say the least. And, by the way, lots of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and cookies are consumed in mass quantities at the beach, so we may want to get rid of the beach all together because of the unhealthiness that the beach experience promotes.

The fire rings should not have to go just because a few neighbors now, after years of quiet enjoyment, have had changes in their own life circumstances. I actually live on the water, and when and if my health changes, would it be OK for me to fund an initiative to stop all the boats from driving in front of my house so that I may breathe easier?

I am compassionate toward anyone suffering ill health. However, money and political influence do not have to be placed above the greater good of the community. Community comes first, and when I am in that unfortunate position of having ill health that may be exacerbated by certain characteristics of my physical surroundings, I can help myself by moving my physical self so that I do not make it all about me.

Michael Mugel

Corona Del Mar

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