State of California
Crystal Cove State Park has three miles of Pacific coastline, according to park officials.
The first coastal campground to be built in decades will open Friday on the site of a former trailer park in Laguna Beach, paying particular attention to its environmental footprint by treating water run-off and using recycled materials from the land's former identity.
"We tried to be environmentally conscious," said Ken Kramer, district superintendent of state parks in Orange County. "Now it's the natural landscape that first jumps out at you."
Voters approved to allocate tax funds for the creation of the park in 2000 and while Kramer acknowledged the opening of a new state park may be incongruous with a budget crisis that has prompted 70 state parks to close, but said he was grateful for non-profit partners and tax payers' approval to create the space.
Asphalt and concrete from the trailer park were reused to make walkways, RV sites and 203 parking spaces. Antiquated planning notions were also recycled as power lines and telephone poles were removed and an old sewage system that drained directly into the ground was abandoned.
As neighbors to the ocean, run-off was a major concern in the creation of the park, Kramer said. A series of bio swells, gullies of native plants that allow used water to filter contaminants through vegetation, swerve through the park.
These eco-helpers are ideal particularly in areas where water flows over concrete before reaching public sources, said Michael K. Strenstrom, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UCLA. The oil and grease deposited by vehicles travel through water run-off, coming to rest on the surface of leaves where particles are degraded by bacteria.
The creation of Crystal Cove State Park's El Moro Campground and Day Use Area, the official name of the site, has been riddled with chronic halts in construction and funding since the city bought the land from the Irvine Company for $32 million in 1979, Kramer said.
He added that after this change of hands, residents of the 249 mobile homes situated on the site rejected relocation fees in favor of an extended 20-year lease.
When those leases expired in 1999, the state did not have the money to convert the once-private area into a public space, allowing tenants to temporarily extend their stay another five years.
Cleaning up the trailer park took an additional two years, construction begun in 2008 but was stopped in 2009 during a state bond-funding crisis until, in January 2010, the funds were officially released.
Although the construction evicted about 1,000 residents from their seaside homes, Kramer said the land belonged to tax payers.
"We're trading one extreme for the other," he said. "We expect hundreds of thousands of visitors every year."
Roy Stearns, deputy director of communication for California State Parks, said he anticipates the 35-acre stretch of real estate to produce enough revenue to cover operating costs with some money left over to provide for other park systems.
While financial independence may be an anomaly in California's deep budget deficit, environmental consciousness is increasing.
Strenstrom said city policy requires new developments to take their environmental impact into consideration.
"California is one of the leaders in a national trend," he said. "We're a little progressive, but we're not the lone ranger."
Sites for RVs cost $65 per day and those for tents and vans are available at $50 per day. Campers may reserve spots for one week. Parking costs $15 per day.