By Marina Anderson Wondering what to do this weekend? If you like being around water, and enjoying nature like ducks and turtles, there’s a place you can enjoy without having to drive outside of Valencia. And there’s a good chance you’ve even driven right by it. probably very familiar to you. At the corner of Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway, you’ll notice the iconic sculpture of birds in flight against a backdrop of boat sails that appear to float in water. It’s Bridgeport Marketplace. There isn’t just a small pond behind the artwork, there’s a large manmade oasis… an entire lake filled with more than 1 million gallons of water, complete with birds and wildlife — including ducks, turtles, fish, white heron, mini waterfalls, bridges and meandering walkways throughout the scenic 31,300-square-foot retreat. For many residents, it’s a favorite getaway to visit on a regular basis. A perfect place for a date night, lunch, dinner, family outings or to just to hang out *and meditate on a bench overlooking the tranquil landscape. I’d often take my mom to one of the restaurants located in the marketplace and we’d sit outside afterward sharing a snack with the ducks and have a quackin’ good time. Those will always remain one of the most precious times we’d share together in her later years… overlooking the water, listening to some soft jazz playing over the marketplace music system and ahhhhh… peaceful. At night, a sea of string and lamp lights illuminate the area transforming it into a cozy spot to stroll alongside the lush park-like grounds. It’s also a place to take visitors from out of town like I did recently. My friends were delighted to interact with the variety of ducks and turtles, bringing out a bit of the “inner kid” again. Although it seems like a simple park, this oasis is a lot more complicated than it looks. Concerned with the type of food to feed the animals (after watching people toss in pizza and bread, which is harmful to the wildlife), I decided to call the marketplace management office to learn a little more about the operation. It was quite an education learning about the work and care behind the scenes to maintain such a lovely environment. What was the reason for the lake to begin with? Dale Donohoe, one of the owners of the marketplace and CEO of Intertex, the company that built the property in 2007, explains, “We wanted a lake to match the development across the street and to set Bridgeport Marketplace apart from all other shopping centers in town. We installed public art (sails & birds) to enhance the ambiance and atmosphere of an aquatic environment.” Aware of the growing amount of wildlife population at the lake, Intertex has taken great lengths to protect the wildlife and preserve the area, making it enjoyable for all ages to experience. They even hired a scuba diver to clean the sludge (read: duck droppings) from the bottom of the lake by hand with a vacuum in order to protect the turtles and fish. The regular method, draining the entire lake, would empty all the small critters out too, sending them literally down the river. It’s not an inexpensive endeavor either, but the company wanted to ensure the animals would be safe. Why the Cheerios/Trader Joe’s O’s type cereal in the vending machines? As Chris Hailstone, of Intertex, explains, “Our office attempted fowl food with seeds and grain for non-migratory birds and wildlife, but such things sink in the water. We encourage people to bring proper food, but the cereal offered is a convenience for those already there. It has vitamins and minerals not found in bread alone.” Recently, these vending machines were stolen but will be replaced, according to officials. From researching online and speaking to a couple of veterinary offices, bread is made with grain and yeast, which are not healthy for the animals (except for oats) and can become tainted on the ground, accelerating the spread of disease for the ducks. Grain (also contained in cereal) isn’t recommended to feed ducks either, but plain oats are OK. An average duck’s life span is nine years. Feeding them the wrong food like bread reduces their longevity to four years — cutting their life span in half! The proper food includes: oats, birdseed, canned, fresh or frozen corn, cracked corn, duck feed pellets (you can buy at pet stores or online), lettuce, other greens (tear them into small pieces because they can’t do it in order to eat it), frozen peas, tomatoes, watermelon and lettuce. In case you’re wondering about the turtles and what they eat… I’m told they feed off of what’s in the lake. It appears most turtles like the ones at the marketplace, are omnivores — meaning they eat meaty foods and green plants. Meaty does not mean giving them a hamburger and french fries! It’s insects, small worms, snails, small fish… and even dead marine animals. Protein is very important for young wild turtles to grow. When they’re young, they are more carnivores, but as they get older, become more herbivore eaters (veggies, green foods…algae, stems, leaves, fruits…). It differs between species. Lettuce is great for turtles too. So, bring proper food for the ducks and turtles and have fun helping make a lot of the critters at Bridgeport Marketplace healthy and happy.