After seven years of work, the ugly blight that once characterized Pacific Coast Highway has been transformed into one of the most scenic drives in Orange County.
The transformation, city officials say, is the product of creating a new park on bluff-area land formerly dominated by oil wells and discarded drilling equipment. The City Council last week allocated $50,000 to complete the next-to-last phase of the new park’s development.
The new facility, Bluff Top Park, extends from 9th Street, north of the pier, to the Bolsa Chica area. The 3 1/2-mile-long park is on the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway.
“This park, with its location along the coast, is now an area of great beauty,” Mayor Peter M. Green said.
The bluff area of the city once was one of its eyesores, Green said. When oil was discovered there in the 1920s, petroleum firms built scores of tall derricks on the bluffs and beaches north of the pier. Old photographs show a virtual forest of derricks clouding the city’s beaches by the end of the decade.
The number of derricks declined as oil wells were consolidated in later decades. But until 1983, the city still had dozens of active wells on the bluffs between Bolsa Chica and downtown Huntington Beach.
“In 1983, the city started work on what is now Bluff Top Park,” said Don Noble, the city’s contracts administrator. “At that time, it was a pretty blighted area. There was a lot of discarded oil-well production equipment, as well as a lot of (active) wells.” The area also had virtually no grass or trees, he added.
Noble said Bluff Top Park evolved over the past seven years as government grants became available. The city simultaneously persuaded petroleum companies to remove their last remaining active wells from the ocean-side bluffs.
About $3 million has been spent during those years to beautify the once-barren land with grass, shrubs, flowers and trees, and the city also built a bike and jogging trail along the strip-like park, Noble said.
He added that the final phase of park development--yet to be funded--will involve about $300,000 in landscaping for oil wells that were capped this year. Other than that work, he said, the park is essentially complete and already enjoying heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
Green said the new park is symbolic as well as beautiful.
“We’re a city in transition,” he said. “We’re transitioning from an oil community to a recreation community.”