Cove, El Morro spending plans get underway

Deepa Bharath

CRYSTAL COVE -- Improving visitor facilities and restoring the 46

dilapidated beachfront cottages for public use will be high on the

priority list for the state park's historic district, officials said this


The improvements and restoration project will be expedited, thanks to

$9.2 million of Proposition 40 funds set aside by Gov. Gray Davis in his

revised budget, which was released Tuesday. Plans could be unveiled by

the fall.

If the state park funds last until the final budget, it will expedite

the restoration process, said Bette Anderson, president of Village

Laguna, which is dedicated to preserving the city's character and


"We will be able to move forward with preserving the cottages at

Crystal Cove and make them available to the public, which is a wonderful

goal all along," Anderson said.

Proposition 40, passed in March, provides a total of $2.6 billion to

help protect California's air, land and water for future generations.

California State Park officials are "excited and pleased" by the fund

allocation, said Don Ito, parks supervisor for the Orange Coast District,

northern sector.

"We just hope it makes it through the final budget in July," he said.

The first part of the project will involve an environmental review by

several agencies, including the city of Newport Beach, Orange County and

Caltrans. The state parks agency hopes to unveil a final plan for the

restoration in the fall, Ito said.

"We will develop plans for visitor-serving facilities and overnight

accommodations," he said. "It is a several-year process. But, in two to

three years, we hope to have the facilities ready for the public, both

day use and overnight accommodations."

Park officials also expect to provide a safe environment, said Ken

Kramer, lifeguard supervisor for Crystal Cove.

"We need to make it safe for people to walk around and improve group

areas where such activities can be hosted," he said.

Kramer said he hopes Crystal Cove will be a model for future

restoration projects in the state and across the nation.

The "public has waited too long," said Richard Rozzelle, associate

parks and recreation specialist.

"I think the most challenging part is behind us," he said. "But we

still need to keep on working diligently to achieve our goals."

The major challenge in getting the funding through was the limited

availability of money for such projects, Assemblyman John Campbell said.

Campbell, who represents Laguna Beach, introduced Assembly Bill 2190,

which would have funded the restoration by extending the leases and

increasing the rents at El Morro Village. After the passage of

Proposition 40, however, he agreed to drop that bill and urged Davis to

allocate bond dollars for the Crystal Cove project.

"For the first time in 50 years, we will have open public access to

the beach and be able to use it in all its facets and forms," he said.

El Morro will get $800,000 toward the planned park and campground

under the proposed budget.

Follow-through, however, is essential to ensure the money stays put,

especially in a time of deficits and cutbacks, said heiress Joan Irvine

Smith, who also is a member and co-founder of Crystal Cove Conservancy, a

nonprofit group working to preserve the cove cottages.

"We can't rest on our laurels," she said. "This is just the beginning.

There is an entire legislative process that is to be completed before we

go to the final budget."

* Times Community News reporter Deirdre Newman contirbuted to this


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