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2 New Parks to Preserve Beauty of Land : Laguna Coast and Peters Canyon Sites, Opening This Month, Are County Treasures

April 11, 1993

Two new jewels in the county's band of parks will come on line this month. The first of these opened this weekend--the lovely, costly, controversial Laguna Coast Wilderness Park that stretches over 3,200 acres and complements the existing treasures in the surrounding Laguna Greenbelt area.

Later this month, Peters Canyon Regional Park, 354 acres in the foothills east of Orange and home to migrating birds, black cottonwoods, willows and sycamores, as well as other wildlife, will open.

The Laguna Coast park especially is a testimony to farsighted public policy and the efforts of diverse environmental, civic and business leaders to work toward a common objective. Its coastal sage hosts rare plants and animals, including the celebrated California gnatcatcher, which has been such a subject of debate.

Until now, visitors to the park have been essentially trespassers, turned back by county park rangers who find them wandering the creeks, groves and canyons. But after a quarter of a century of negotiating, and at a cost of more than $40 million, the park will be accessible on a limited basis, with tours scheduled on weekends each month and in advance.

But the hope is that the restrictions will limit the further ruination of the land. And the land itself has been much contested; it has been the focus of demonstrations in the past against proposed new housing, and even now there are deep concerns about what a new tollway will mean for its flora and fauna.

The new Peters Canyon park, on the other hand, will be more accessible to the general public, open days to hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers.

After great sacrifice, the county gets these treasures to remind us of the beauty of our land. And, thankfully, there are vast stretches of it--no postage-stamp plots to symbolize some developer's grudging acknowledgment of "open space."

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