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LAGUNA BEACH : Lack of Funds Stalls Wilderness Park Plan

August 09, 1995|LESLIE EARNEST

Thirteen months ago, the county unveiled preliminary designs for the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and planners predicted a final blueprint would be ready by the end of 1994.

But that was before Orange County filed bankruptcy, which has waylaid this plan and many others.

Tonight, that blueprint was to have been presented for the 12,000 acres nestled between Laguna Beach, Irvine and Newport Beach.

But that meeting has been canceled because the county cannot spend the money now to hire a biological consultant to complete the plan, said Robert G. Fisher, Orange County's director of harbors, beaches and parks.

As a result, the public's access to the parkland must for now remain restricted to docent-led tours.

"Already we've had an eight-month delay," Fisher said Tuesday. "I'm hopeful that in a two- or three-month period, we will have found a way to get back on track."

The consultant is needed to help outline how to protect the park's environmentally sensitive plants and other natural resources. The county must also complete a general plan, which will detail how the park will be used, including where the trails will be and where visitors will park.

"Everything essentially stopped in December when the bankruptcy was announced," said Elisabeth Brown, chairwoman of the Coastal Greenbelt Authority, created to manage the park.

Once the plans are in place, Fisher said, residents may be allowed more general access to the park, even before it is completed with permanent restrooms and other amenities.

In the meantime, Brown encouraged residents to take advantage of tours available through the park ranger and the Nature Conservancy. These include hiking, equestrian and mountain cycling tours.

Information: (714) 854-7108 or (714) 832-7478.

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