Why Not In Laguna?

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Our guest columnist proposes staging an annual 5K race, the “Sea Lion Sprint,” in Laguna Beach.

By Sally Eastwood

One of the many reasons people flock to Laguna Beach is the sense of community that a small town engenders. Events like First Thursdays Art Walk, Music in the Park, Hospitality Night and the Patriots’ Day Parade bring residents together to celebrate the joys of living here.

But back in the 1980s and 1990s, there was another event: a 2K and 10K race that benefitted Laguna Beach schools, which, although popular, was discontinued due to time and funding constraints. I think it’s a good time to reconsider an annual race event to raise money for another great cause: the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC). This unique Laguna institution is close to the hearts of most residents, especially after the past year, when it was overwhelmed with sick and injured pinnipeds.

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Our neighboring cities each have their own charity races; it’s time for Laguna to join them. For example, Dana Point has the annual Turkey Trot, which is held on Thanksgiving and benefits local nonprofits, while Corona del Mar organizes an annual Scenic 5K, which funds local events and institutions. These communities have been organizing their race events for more than 30 years, which speaks volumes about the concept’s popularity and potential support from local businesses and community members.

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Tracey Bengelsdorf and Dotty Hagmier celebrate at the Dana Point Turkey Trot.

Laguna Beach can arrange a 5K “Sea Lion Sprint,” concluding with a special event at the finish line: the release of one or more rehabilitated pinnipeds by the PMMC back into the ocean.

Planning the event would obviously involve overcoming quite a few logistical issues, and there are folks in town who are familiar with the failings of what was done before. How many roads need to be closed? How long will they need to be closed for? How many people will participate? How much will this all cost?

Here’s a plan that could work. First of all, the route: To minimize road closures downtown while keeping a scenic route, the race could start and finish at Montage Laguna Beach, heading south, and then looping back. Coast Highway would be included, plus some of the surrounding south Laguna streets to add interest.

There are two reasons for choosing this option. First, the public park at Treasure Island offers a beautiful, large staging area for people to congregate, and there are parking opportunities in the area. We can also enlist the summer trolleys to shuttle people to and from the start/finish line.

Second, Treasure Island Beach provides the perfect spot for seals and sea lions to be released at the end of the race. It’s a release location currently used by the PMMC and offers ideal viewing opportunities for spectators.

As for timing, the month of January would be a great kickoff to the new year, the weather would be sunny, and we would avoid a conflict with the summer festival season.

With support from local businesses and residents, the Laguna Beach “Sea Lion Sprint” could become a well-anticipated annual event for years to come. LBM

Sally Eastwood is a Laguna Beach resident and co-author of “101 Things to Love About Laguna Beach,” which debuted December 2013.

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