LAGUNA BEACH : $4 Million Granted for Coastal Park

The state Wildlife Conservation Board agreed this week to grant $4 million to buy 82 acres in Laguna Canyon as part of a larger plan to help preserve land once slated for development.

The action will assist the city of Laguna Beach in its effort to preserve a pristine 2,150-acre parcel where the Irvine Co. had proposed building the Laguna Laurel planned community.

In a statement regarding the board's action, state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) said, "The City Council and the people of Laguna Beach deserve a heartfelt thank-you from those of us who will enjoy the natural beauty of coastal California."

Earlier this year, the city and the Irvine Co. negotiated an agreement to allow Laguna Beach to buy the land for $78 million. Paving the way for that agreement, Laguna Beach voters in November overwhelmingly endorsed a $20-million bond issue to help make a down payment on the land.

The county, which will also share ownership of the parcel, has agreed to contribute $10 million toward the purchase. The land is expected to become part of a sprawling, 15,000-acre regional wilderness park.

City officials say allowing other agencies to purchase parts of the 2,150 acres is consistent with the goal of keeping the land free of development.

"If we can sell off other chunks, we'll do that too to raise the money, but it will all be managed by the county as part of the Coastal Greenbelt Regional Park," City Manager Kenneth C. Frank said Wednesday.

To make the final balloon payment of $33 million in 1995, the city plans to sell another $7 million or $8 million in bonds. Other fund-raising efforts are also under way.

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