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Debating the Future of El Morro MobileHomes

[Letters to the Los Angeles Times 1-20-2002]

Re "A Solution for Crystal Cove," Commentary, Jan. 6:Assemblyman John Campbell (R-Irvine) said the state parksdepartment should extend the lease for renters at the El MorroVillage Mobile Home Park for 10 more years, double the rentand dedicate the money to improvements for the historic districtof Crystal Cove State Park.

This proposal does not address a solution for the greater good ofall Californians. The demand for camping spots, especially alongthe coast, far outstrips the supply. The State Park System hasabout 11,000 campsites statewide, yet the demand is more thandouble that number and the department has not added anycampsites in Southern California since 1992.

The state has been trying to develop the El Morro park since1982, when the general plan for the park was approved.However, extensions won by the renters have kept them livingin a state park for 20 years. If they are granted a 10-yearextension beyond December 2004, they will have lived on publicpark property for more than 30 years. In addition, we have apark plan that is fully approved and funded from Proposition 12park bond money and ready to go at El Morro. We have alreadyspent $800,000 in the planning process. We will be ready tobegin construction in early 2005 to build a 60-unit campsite and rehabilitate the environment andhabitat areas of creek.

The parks department is looking at all funding possibilities, such as special legislation, privatedonations, the Proposition 40 park bond measure on the March ballot, the Coastal Conservancy,and the money set aside by the Coastal Commission in 1982, now more than $2.8 million dollars.There is a public demand for both El Morro and Crystal Cove, and we do not want to sacrifice onefor the other.

How long should the public wait to watch the sunset from an El Morro campsite? The renters haveenjoyed a wonderful life in a state park. But after 20 years, it is time for the greater good for allCalifornians to prevail. It is not time to push this denial of public park property to 30 years ormore.

Rusty Areias
State Department of Parks and Recreation

Campbell reminded me that governing sometimes requires tough choices. His recommendation isn'ttough, though; it's just smart. Who cares if El Morro Village continues on in its tiny portion ofCrystal Cove State Park if we are able to get the cottages repaired? Unless the campers are willingto pay a sum equal to the rental income at El Morro Village, let's get the leases extended and get onwith business.

Robert D. Johnston
Newport Beach

Who does John Campbell speak for? Hardly the Crystal Cove Historic District! He wascompletely silent during three years of contentious debate on the luxury hotel contract, thedistrict's future use and the tenants' pleas to stay. He even failed to vote for the park bond measurerecently passed by the Legislature with funding that could be tapped for Crystal Cove.

More than 25 years after its purchase, this unique coastal site, a direct link between the beach andinland canyons of the park, finally will be made available to the public to enjoy. Beach access andparking, picnicking and 60 view campsites will add to existing state park facilities that are full allsummer.

Respectfully, Assemblyman Campbell, with plans and funding in place, the campground shouldproceed for the benefit of all your constituents. Let's get the state parks department out of theyearly rental business by supporting the park bond measure, Proposition 40, on the Marchprimary ballot. It's time for El Morro tenants to thank the landlord (us) for 25 years in this veryspecial place and move on.

Ed Merrilees
Laguna Beach

Many meetings and letters to our state representatives, governor, the state park system and a lostlitigation later, we finally have Campbell with a logical and fiscally responsible plan to extendleases at El Morro for 10 years to fund the restoration of the historic cottages at Crystal Cove.Thanks for his perseverance and for understanding finance. Maybe someday Crystal Cove HistoricDistrict will be restored to its former quaintness and be back on the California Tourist Guide as a"must see," and I'll be able to find something there worthy of a painting again.

Val Carson
Newport Beach


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