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Sounding Off -- ED MERRILEES

As I’ve written about before, it looks as though El Morro Trailer Park

tenants in Crystal Cove State Park will continue to enjoy their

under-market rents until Dec. 31, 2004, but no longer. Assemblyman John

Campbell has agreed to withdraw Assembly Bill 2190, which would extend El

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Morro leases for at least five additional years and increase the rents to

market rates, earmarking these funds for rehabilitation of the cottages

in the historic district of our publicly owned coastal park.

The Friends of the Irvine Coast, upon learning that El Morro Village

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(formerly El Morro Investments Inc.) had hired a lawyer, a lobbyist and a

public relations consultant and was approaching Orange County legislators

to introduce a bill to extend their stay, promptly sounded the alarm to

concerned citizens and organizations.

In addition to the “Friends,” public-spirited groups such as the

Laguna Greenbelt, Village Laguna, Laguna North Neighborhood Assn. and the

Sierra Club Conservation Committee not only took early and strong board

positions, but encouraged their members to write, call or e-mail decision

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makers on this issue. Campbell and the Water Parks and Wildlife Committee

became the focus of the Friends’ letter-writing campaign at the Women

For: Orange County organization’s “Great American Write-In” held at UCI

on March 13.

This united storm of protest, boosted by the strong voter approval of

Park Bond 2002 (Proposition 40) and a concerted lobbying effort in

Sacramento, is credited with moving John Campbell, 70th Assembly District

representative, to withdraw his “funding proposal for Crystal Cove

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Historic District” in order “to see the cottages restored” weeks before

its first legislative committee hearing. He will urge Gov. Gray Davis to

allocate Proposition 40 monies in the May budget revision and may

reintroduce this bill if funding lags.

For El Morro Canyon and its sandy beach, with funding already

appropriated and park department plans scheduled for implementation

January 1, 2005, there exists no reason to postpone its intended

campground use.

The Parks Department will receive generous funding from Proposition 40

and continues to insist that Crystal Cove Historic District

rehabilitation is, if not its top priority, among the top projects for

park implementation. The California Coastal Conservancy, source of the

$2-million buyout for resort concessionaire Michael Freed, will also

administer its portion of Proposition 40 funds.

Once again, it has been demonstrated that strong organized groups and

determined citizen involvement in a united effort can be effective in

securing a desired public benefit. The credit for ‘nipping in the bud’

this legislation initiated by a few to benefit their special interest

belongs to the many citizens who took the time to write letters, return

postcards, send e-mails and make phone calls opposing the “cottage

restoration funding” proposal.

The long-awaited final draft of the California State Parks’ “Public

Use Plan for the Historic District” promised by “early summer” will

require the same careful attention and response before it is scheduled

for approval by the State Parks Commission and then Coastal Commission.

* ED MERRILEES serves on the board of the Friends of the Irvine Coast.


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