A year ago July, after the last of the Crystal Cove cottage
dwellers packed their bags, I wrote that there were two options for
that beach that would best suit the taxpaying public, who truly owns
Those options were to turn the cottages into rustic getaway
retreats for $100 a night, or tear down the cottage save for one or
two for historic value and turn the place into a campground.
After my column ran, I got a rather sarcastic message from a
former Crystal Cove cottage resident who scoffed at the idea that
anyone would ever be able to stay at the cottages for $100 a night.
If the cottages were available for $100 a night, he'd pick up the
tab, he told me.
Well, my wife and I will be checking the calendar pretty soon as
the state parks officials have unveiled their plans for the sandy
enclave that includes just that -- cabins for $100 a night among
I don't write this to pat my back, but instead to give a nod to
the state parks officials, former cove resident Laura Davick, Laguna
Beach resident Jeannette Merrilees and Irvine Co. heiress Joan Irvine
Smith for realizing that the best thing for Crystal Cove is to come
up with a plan that gives access to all residents of California, not
just a select few.
Because of their effort and others, Crystal Cove will soon become
one of the prime destination points in the state parks system, I'm
pretty sure of that.
Still, at $100 a night that's a little steep for some.
So as for the campground that I made a pitch for, I think there is
still hope for that just down the road from Crystal Cove at El Moro.
El Moro is a situation that almost mirrors the old one at Crystal
A bunch of trailers sit on the beach and just across Coast
Highway. The people in these trailers, much like those who lived in
the Crystal Cove cottages, have known for years that they are on
borrowed time. They are living on state park lands and must vacate
Yet, they are now crying the same tune the cottage dwellers did.
It seems like they must have hired the same public relations agency
as the Crystal Cove folks. Here's some of their tall tales:
El Moro's magic is more about the people that live there than it
is about location, they croon.
They say on one hand that the beach will either be ruined if they
leave because of the massive crowds, or on the other that no one
actually uses it anyway so why kick them out?
Some are blaming the big, bad state for being so cruel to evict
them from their homes, when in truth they all knew this day was
coming when they signed their leases.
Finally, they claim the state should leave them be because it is
wracked by financial problems and will let the area lie dormant and
rotting for years. Another big joke.
The same song was being sung at Crystal Cove by folks who took
their sweet time -- more than a decade -- to actually move like they
were supposed to. Yet, in a little more than a year, the state has
come up with not only the plan for the cove but the money to carry it
So here's what I'd like to see at El Moro. Turn it into a state
campground that everyone in the state can enjoy.
There are precious few spots in Orange County where campers can
stay on the beach -- Bolsa Chica and San Clemente state beaches are
the only two that come to mind.
Making El Moro another one would be awesome for young families and
seniors who have limited budgets but would like to stay on the beach
in their camper or tent.
Like I've always said about Crystal Cove, I don't blame those
people at El Moro for wanting to stay in their little slice of
But what angers me is their refusal to acknowledge that they don't
have any rights to that land. It's my land and your land and everyone
else who pays taxes on it.
We should all get a chance to share in its beauty.
Hopefully, in the near future, I'll be writing another column
applauding those who make that happen.
* TONY DODERO is the editor. He can be reached at (949) 574-4258
or via e-mail at email@example.com.