From the Boathouse: Wil Wright's is gone, but a plum space remains


I remember a time in my youth when I was tossing newspapers while pedaling my Schwinn three-speed bike through the Bayshore Trailer Park. Some of you might remember that the park was located at the northeast corner of Dover Drive and Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach. I vividly remember the friendly tenants who greeted me daily, and that they had their own private boat launch ramp into the Back Bay.

I also remember the small retail center that was located next to the park fronting along the Coast Highway. There were three stores: everyone's favorite Wil Wright's ice cream store, a liquor store I think was called Rod's that sold tasty cheese ball snacks, and a very popular bait and tackle store, which I recall was named Roy's.

The park was my final dropoff point for my Daily Pilot paper route that spanned the Coast Highway from the Arches Bridge to the then-called Reuben E. Lee Bridge. This was 1969, to date myself, and the trailer park and stores are long gone.

The corner was scrapped clean for the construction of the new bridge and highway expansion, a portion of which now sits over where the stores were located. The empty land where the trailer park was located has had a few different uses over the decades, and the property was eventually rezoned for recreational and marine commercial uses. This zoning includes the potential future development of a marina and a trailer boat launch ramp.

Herein lies the $25,000 question of what should be done with the property, which is now known as the Lower Castaways. Should it remain open space as a park, become a marina with a launch ramp or be converted to a RV park for visitors? The Newport Beach Harbor Commission held a study session last week to discuss the options and take public input for this last piece of open city-owned property that can be developed.

This is an important issue not only in Newport Beach, but across the nation as the public's access to water has dramatically decreased over the last few decades due to private development. Typically, developers and city planners have deemed the highest and best use for waterfront properties was condos with private marinas.

However, land-use planners and city leaders are discovering that public access is vital for waterfront communities to survive. Limit or impede water access for water activities such as boating, swimming, kayaking and fishing, and the local economy suffers with the decrease in the economic benefit derived primarily from sales-tax revenue and the patronage of local businesses.

Tourism and visitors bureaus seek to attract out-of-towners by touting the area's recreational activities and ambience. Just as key, locals applaud easy, available public access for their families, and the future generations will applaud the foresight of their ancestors for not pursuing the short-term monetary returns from private development, but the long-term benefits that water access generates for society.

Luckily for us, the Lower Castaways property is zoned for recreational and marine use, but there are other properties in waterfront communities where the zoning changes or future development will leave a legacy for future generations. These legacies will be good or bad in the eyes of the beholders, and communities must realize the importance along with the social and economic impacts of providing public water access.

Tip of the week is that I am excited to see the new proposed "Duffy Dock" to enhance the mooring fields for boaters. This is a concept that has been talked about for years, yet Marshall "Duffy" Duffield is taking the initial steps to produce and test this newfangled docking system that can be used in most harbors and lakes. You may recognize the name Duffy as he invented and builds the Duffy electric boats.

Now, image a mooring area that is void of mooring cans, yet contains free-floating docks that are anchored to the seafloor by chains or pylons. The docks can be built singular to moor a boat on either side, or built in another formation to house numerous boats such as an "H" configuration.

I think replacing the mooring cans with docks will have numerous advantages for boaters and the waterways. The docks will take up less water surface area for the same number of boats on the mooring cans; therefore, you can either add more docks in same size mooring field or decrease the size of the mooring field for more open water.

Additionally, boaters will have a much easier task of docking their vessel to the platforms versus trying to "pick up" a can, especially in heavily winds or currents. Lastly, there is the feasibility of running electrical power, cable and water to the mooring field docks.

Stay tuned: I will have more on the Duffy Docks, and please be boat smart and boat safe.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replaying throughout the weekend. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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