Moro Campgrounds ready for the public

(Don Leach, Coastline Pilot)

A vacation in coastal Orange County doesn’t have to be at a five-star hotel. For as little as $50 a night, one can have an ocean view and a walk to the beach with the opening of the Moro Campgrounds on Friday.

The 35-acre property in Crystal Cove State Park has 60 campsites, 30 of which have hook-ups providing electricity and water. Hook-up spots cost about $65 per night.

The entire Moro Canyon area redevelopment project near the edges of Newport Coast and Laguna Beach is estimated to cost $15 million.

“I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it in Southern California,” said Crystal Cove State Park Supt. Todd Lewis.

Campers can not only take a dip in the Pacific Ocean, but also hike or bike the Crystal Cove trails and enjoy the Beachcomber restaurant. Downtown Laguna Beach is less than five miles away.

The site has special parking spaces designed for horse trailers.

All the sites are up on the hill and offer ocean views. The valley area houses restrooms, showers, shade ramadas and picnic areas.

The project hasn’t been easy. Excavation of the El Morro RV Park began in 2006 by removing the trailers and invasive, non-native plant species. Although development started in 2008, a bond freeze in 2009 put all work to a halt for an entire year.

“Literally, it has been planned since 1982,” Lewis said. “We’ve been working on this about the last 10 years in terms of securing bond funding and having … plans.”

Planners were able to recycle an old roadway by grinding it up and reusing it for road-based materials such as trails and parking.

What makes the site unique is the fact that modern architecture was used, Lewis said, which gives it a different style than many of the camping areas along California’s coastline that have older facilities.

The park had soft openings over the last couple weeks, where invited staff, the Laguna Beach fire and police departments, stakeholders and volunteers got to spend a couple nights on the grounds and give their feedback.

“It went quite well,” Lewis said. “We had enough people cycling through to have a steady stream of comments and input from the perspective of parents from the elementary school, to public safety and our own employees.”

As of Tuesday morning, Lewis said there were more than 1,500 individual reservations, which totals more than 4,000 overnight stays. Reservations have been accepted since June 15.

The park will host an open house Thursday, when the public can tour the campgrounds from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. At 4 p.m. there will be a brief dedication.