Thursday, July 31, 2014

To the beach-Corona del Mar

Since Corona del Mar is on the coast, of course there have to be beaches.  Corona del Mar has three beaches.  One is Big Corona which features surf, cliffs, a jetty and a variety of activity from surfing and skim boarding to volleyball.  Little Corona is a quiet little paradise; where the best attraction are the tide pools.

The other beach is at Crystal Cove State Park, which has 3.2 miles of beach and 2400 acres of undeveloped woodland, which is popular for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.  The beach is popular for scuba divers, swimmers and surfers.

In 1837, the first grant of land on which Crystal Cove State Park is located was awarded to Jose Andres Sepulveda.  Sepulveda sold Rancho San Joaquin to James Irvine and his partners in 1864.

In 1876, Irvine bought out his partners, when the company's ranching efforts failed due to droughts, wool infestations and competitive markets.

Between the 1910's and 1920's, the motion picture companies discovered the isolated cove at the mouth of Los Trancos Creek and the first palm trees were planted, which created a "paradise of the south seas" set for the benefit of film makers.  During that time, friends and employees of the Irvine Company begin to visit the Los Trancos Creek beach area for recreational activities.

In 1920, an early version of "Treasure Island" is the first commercial movie documented to be filmed at Crystal Cove.  In 1925, company employees and friends began a tent camp.  Some regulars begin to build small shelters and cottages along beach and against the bluffs.

In 1926, Pacific Coast Highway officially opens between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach providing the public access to Crystal Cove.

In 1927, Elizabeth Wood and her husband, Merrill; who were regular visitors named the beach and creek mouth area, "Crystal Cove".

Japanese farmers began leasing land from The Irvine Company and built homes and barns.  The farmers planted hundreds of acres of crops on the hillsides surrounding the cove.  They sold the produce from roadside stands on Coast Highway and to Los Angeles markets.

South of the Crystal Cove cottages "Tyron's Camp"; which was a cafe, auto camp and tent campground opened in 1927 along Pacific Coast Highway at the beach and inland creek of Morro Canyon.

In 1934, the local Japanese farming community erects its own community center known as the Gakuen or Japanese Language School.  This building is now preserved within the Historic District.

By 1936, lessees had built 47 cottages and starting in 1938, The Irvine Company and their site manager began to formalize the camping leases for annual renewals.  Under these leases the tenants had little incentive to invest in expensive improvements because the Irvine Company retained ownership of both the land the cottages.

In 1939, Orange County officials restrict construction of any further cabins due to infrastructure limitations (water, power, sewer).  Therefore under the Irvine leases it was possible to paint, resurface or change a water heater or fixture, but no changes in dimensions or additions of rooms were technically allowed after 1939.

Due to World War II, in 1942, Japanese Americans were required to be evacuated from the Pacific Coast due to the war.  The Japanese Community that were leasing land from The Irvine Company were sent to the interment camp in Poston, Arizona.  As a result, they forever lost their farms and homes along the San Joaquin hills.  Between 1942 and 1945, the U.S. military requisitioned nearly 4000 acres from the Irvine Ranch for military needs, including land for coastal defense systems.  Inside Crystal Cove, a "base end station" or "spotting station" was built above Abalone Point.  The military converted the Japanese Schoolhouse for their use.  The purpose was for observation and to furnish data for the guns of a battery for firing at a target.  The plans for a Fire Control Station were approved in November of 1943 and became obsolete soon after it had been constructed.

Crystal Cove experienced its peak years, during the 1950's, as a recreational community of summer beach goers.  The peak years ended in 1962, due to the county ending the south beach tent camping and ay use activities due to increased public health and safety concerns .  Afterward, Crystal Cove became a community of part time and full time cottage tenants.

In 1956, the old Tyron's Camp complex evolved into a permanent mobile home facility known as "El Morro Beach Trailer Park." By 1960, a series of trailers were installed along the Morro Beach front and in 1971, an additional loop created on a graded bluff top next to El Morro Elementary School.

The Crystal Cove Historic District was nominated in 1979 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1982, the Crystal Cove State Park general plan was approved by the State Parks and Recreation Commission.  The plans major components include the adaptive re-use of the Crystal Cove cottage for affordable public use and the conversion of the El Morro Trailer Park area for public camping and day use.  State Funds for implementing these improvements are not available and the leases for both areas are extended for 20 years.

In 1997,  the state signs a 60 years concession contract with private developers to convert the cottages into a luxury resort, and in 1999, the Alliance to Save Crystal Cove is formed to coordinate  support to stop the planned luxury resort.  In 2001, the State Parks staff begins meeting with stakeholders and the public to create a public works plan to develop the Crystal Cove Historic District per the general plan.

In 2003, the resulting Crystal Cove Historic District Preservation and Public use plan is completed, goes through environmental review and is approved by the State Parks commission.  The first phase of the restoration of 22 cottages and key infrastructure begins at the Historic District.  Between 2003 and 2006, the restoration project results in the restoration of 13 cottages for overnight rental and nine for operations, interpretation and food concession use.  During 2006, the first overnight guests check into restored cottages and the Beachcomber Restaurant opens.  The tenants of El Morro Beach Trailer park vacated after a lengthy legal battle and the trailers were removed in order to develop a public campground and day use facility.

In 2007, Crystal cove State Park is awarded the prestigious Governor's Historic Preservation Award for the first restoration project.  Fundraising starts for the second restoration project, which would cost $6 million and would restore the Education Commons, Hollow and South Beach area.  The restoration was completed between 2009 and 2011.  In 2013, the third phase restoration project of scoping and site clean up begins; which includes the restoration of the remaining 17 cottages in the North Beach area of the district.

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