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Debating the Future of El Morro Mobile Homes

January 20, 2002

Re "A Solution for Crystal Cove," Commentary, Jan. 6: Assemblyman John Campbell (R-Irvine) said the state parks department should extend the lease for renters at the El Morro Village Mobile Home Park for 10 more years, double the rent and dedicate the money to improvements for the historic district of Crystal Cove State Park.

This proposal does not address a solution for the greater good of all Californians. The demand for camping spots, especially along the coast, far outstrips the supply. The State Park System has about 11,000 campsites statewide, yet the demand is more than double that number and the department has not added any campsites in Southern California since 1992.

The state has been trying to develop the El Morro park since 1982, when the general plan for the park was approved. However, extensions won by the renters have kept them living in a state park for 20 years. If they are granted a 10-year extension beyond December 2004, they will have lived on public park property for more than 30 years.

In addition, we have a park plan that is fully approved and funded from Proposition 12 park bond money and ready to go at El Morro. We have already spent $800,000 in the planning process. We will be ready to begin construction in early 2005 to build a 60-unit campsite and rehabilitate the environment and habitat areas of creek.

The parks department is looking at all funding possibilities, such as special legislation, private donations, 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 one for the other.

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

Rusty Areias

Director,

State Department

of Parks and Recreation

*

Campbell reminded me that governing sometimes requires tough choices. His recommendation isn't tough, though; it's just smart. Who cares if El Morro Village continues on in its tiny portion of Crystal Cove State Park if we are able to get the cottages repaired? Unless the campers are willing to pay a sum equal to the rental income at El Morro Village, let's get the leases extended and get on with business.

Robert D. Johnston

Newport Beach

*

Who does John Campbell speak for? Hardly the Crystal Cove Historic District! He was completely silent during three years of contentious debate on the luxury hotel contract, the district's future use and the tenants' pleas to stay. He even failed to vote for the park bond measure recently 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 and inland canyons of the park, finally will be made available to the public to enjoy. Beach access and parking, picnicking and 60 view campsites will add to existing state park facilities that are full all summer.

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

Ed Merrilees

Laguna Beach

*

Many meetings and letters to our state representatives, governor, the state park system and a lost litigation later, we finally have Campbell with a logical and fiscally responsible plan to extend leases 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 Historic District 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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