Olivenhain walking partners are cleaning up the street


For a pair of Encinitas residents, a morning walk has become more than just a leisurely stroll.

Chris Fontana, 75, and Dot Dodds, 84, have been walking together for 25 years, and for much of that time, the pair has been picking up trash along Long Jack Road in Oilvenhain. They see it as a way to clean up at least a small part of the community they love.

“It’s rural and it’s peaceful and we don’t want it to be trashy,” Fontana said of Olivenhain. “When we see something that’s out of place, we pick it up and put it in our own trash cans.”

“We know what to do even if they don’t know what to do,” Dodds added about the litterbugs.

Fontana moved to Olivenhain in 1990 and she began walking her dog along the local trails. About a year later, she was walking by Dodds’ nearby house and the two met and decided to start walking together. They were 50 and 59 years old and they enjoyed exploring all of the trails Olivenhain had to offer, especially back then.

Since then, Fontana has had both of her knees worked on and Dodds had one of hers done last year.

“Now we pretty much stay to the level ground along the road,” Fontana said of the now three-times-per-week walks.

Over time, and as construction picked up along Long Jack Rd. creating more trash, the two decided to do something about it. And their neighbors are certainly grateful.

“I’ve had people come up to me in Ralph’s and say thank you,” said Dodds, the more outspoken of the two. She added that the most interesting item they’ve found was red satin panties several years ago.

Born in 1931 in Michigan to a British father and a Canadian mother, Dodds and her mother moved to Oregon in 1946.

When a Navy sailor asked her to marry him, Dodds accepted and the young couple moved down to Ocean Beach in 1948. Dodds returned to Oregon to have a child but, following a two-year hospital stay with tuberculosis, she moved back down to San Diego. She has three kids in all.

Dodds went to the University of South Carolina at age 35, majoring in art but mostly trying to get out of the house.

“My mother-in-law moved in with me. Wouldn’t you go to college?”

She is still painting and has works displayed at Off Track Gallery and The San Diego Watercolor Society, where she is also a volunteer. She is also active at Seacoast Community Church.

Dodds came to Olivenhain in 1981 with her second husband, Joe (aka “Mr. Wonderful”), who passed away in 2001.

“Olivenhain is a unique place, more about horses and agriculture,” Dodds explained. “I like it here. Chris and I have watched our kids grow up, we’ve watched the neighbors’ kids grow up and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Not surprisingly, Dodds and Fontana have struck up a great friendship over the years, as long as they stay away from one specific topic.

“We share books, we share recipes, we share stories of our kids,” Fontana said. “We try to avoid politics because we don’t necessarily see eye to eye.”

Both Fontana and Dodds have hosted Election Day polls at their houses for years, Fontana and her husband, Bob, doing it again last month.

Both natives of Southern California, the Fontanas have been married for 59 years since meeting in La Jolla. They lived in Ocean Beach, then, in 1964, moved to University City, where they lived for 26 years before coming to Olivenhain.

The Fontanas have three kids, seven grandkids and three great grandkids, and Chris still works as an enrolled agent, licensed by the IRS to prepare taxes for about 150 clients, many of whom are her friends.

Like Dodds, Fontana does a lot of volunteer work, most recently serving as president of The Wednesday Club in San Diego. Fontana also was president of the San Diego History Center and the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center, among other things.

And, of course, keeping Lone Jack Rd. free of trash.