The plan by state park officials to use state land in Orange County for a boutique private resort is the wrong way to raise revenue for a strapped parks system. Public coastal land should be available to the public.
Plans for the resort at Crystal Cove State Park, north of Laguna Beach, were developed in secret. They call for average rentals of $225 a night, going as high as $400, to stay in renovated cottages. There could be as many as three swimming pools.
Certainly the state could use the projected $1 million a year that the resort would bring in. However, at a time when the fate of the state's waterfront is a critical concern, a spectacular coastal setting would be abdicated to a high- end clientele. This rustic place, long celebrated as a Shangri-La by artists and those who occupied the old beach cottages, would be beyond the reach of ordinary vacationers. The state's purchase of Crystal Cove from the Irvine Co. in 1979 afforded an opportunity for enlightened public usage that should not be squandered. It ought to be possible to come up with an alternative that will preserve the cottages yet allow more affordable lodging.
A plush resort would represent a disturbing departure for the state parks system, which has been geared to making California's great outdoors accessible. Crystal Cove State Park does have a few existing campgrounds, but they are relatively insignificant in a coastal area locked up by the affluent, with Corona del Mar to the north, Laguna to the south and, closer to the park, a new habitat for the rich and famous under development in Newport Coast.
The state has been far too secretive in the formulation of these plans. It should go back to the drawing board and come up with something for the state's Park and Recreation Commission and the California Coastal Commission to review that is more suitable for public land.
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