Crystal Cove can be example for El Moro


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

the land.

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

other things.

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

the premises.

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

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