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Resort plan is a bad idea

by Murray Rosenthal

[Reproduced from a Sierra Club "Southern Sierran" editorial 12-2-1997]

The recenty revealed concession agreement for Crystal Cove State Park, which will transform a group of historic cottages into a pricey resort is bad for the public and even worse for the state park system. (See story, Page 1). Both the Angeles Chapter and Sierra Club California are opposed to it.

The proposed resort development will remove a beautiful and historic coastal area, which was purchased with public money for the enjoyment of the public, from use by the public. The mission of the state park system has always been to protect areas with natural and cultural values for future generations and to make them available for the enjoyment of everyone. Removal of a prime piece of ocean beach from public access runs counter to this mission. There are plenty of resorts in the state (and especially in coastal Orange County), managed and priced for the rich.

Having negotiated in secret for over a year with the developer of the resort, state Department of Parks and Recreation is now applying its own spin to the project. The most questionable assertion is that the resort will increase access to Crystal Cove.

Not so! Crystal Cove is now accessible to the public. While access to Crystal Cove is not well marked at present, lacking viisible signs showing the location of parking and the access tunnel, those who know the location can use this beach by paying a $5 day use fee. In contrast, the concession agreement extends to the mean high tide line. The concessionaire will control access to the public beach. Paying guests, under the terms of the agreement, will have priority over the public.

As precedents for the resort, Parks and recreation personnel cite the hotel-like overnight accommodations now in the state park system. There are only four units with such accomodations. Three are conference centers with simple amenities; two were developed before World War II; and the third was acquired in a deal which brought a desirable piece of coastal land into the system. A fourth unit that charges $139 a night is also grandfathered into the system.

Perhaps the most critical aspect of the plans is that they are arguably in violation of Section 5019.53 of the Public Resources Code which states, in part:

"lmprovements undertaken within state parks shall be for the purpose of making the areas available for public enjoyment and education in a manner consistent with the preservation of natural, scenic, cultural, and ecological values for present and future generations .... Improvements which do not directly enhance the public's enjoyment of the natural, scenic, cultural, and ecological values of the resource, which are attractions in themselves, or which are otherwise available to the public within a reasonable distance outside the park, shall not be undertaken within state parks."

If Parks and Recreation implements its concession agreement and the development is not stopped, it will be at the cost of the protections in Seetion 5019.53, which the Sierra Club helped write almost 30 years ago.

A resort in Crystal Cove could set a precedent that will lead to the commercialization of the state park system and the erosion of public access.


[Clips from original newspaper articles appear here for educational purposes and purposes of comment, rather than commercial purposes. They are reprinted under the fair use doctrine of international copyright law.]