Joan Irvine Smith shares history

October 18, 2002

-- Barbara Diamond

Once upon a time there was a little princess. Her name was Joan.

Princess Joan's father died when she was two, but she still had

her mother, Athalie, and her grandfather, the powerful King James II

of Irvine. Joan lived with her mother in the adjoining kingdoms of

Los Angeles and Pasadena.

But among her favorite childhood memories are the visits with


James II. She rode with the cowboys who herded the king's cattle. She

watched his crops grow -- he liked to call himself a farmer. She

fished with him -- bringing home the catch and tossing it into his

swimming pool to stay fresh. And when she wanted to visit the

seashore, she went to the little green house on one of the King's

coves, to this day called Irvine.

But sadly, the day came when James II was no longer there.

Joan Irvine Smith has spent her life trying to fulfill her

grandfather's vision and to protect the environment he treasured.

"If my grandfather wanted to widen a road and a tree was in the

way, he moved the road," she said. "That is probably how I learned

the respect I have for the environment."

Irvine Smith was the guest speaker Oct. 8 at the Laguna Canyon

Conservancy dinner. She had expected to speak on Proposition 50,

Californians for Clean Water and Coastal Protection, which she

wholeheartedly supports, and briefly on Proposition 51, which would

secure the wildlife corridor for the Great Park.

"To my surprise, I read a notice that I would be speaking on my

experiences as a child at the ranch and at Crystal Cove," Irvine

Smith said.

She never visited Crystal Cove as a child, although she reveres it

now as an island in time."

"It is reminiscent of the early days in Irvine Cove and hopefully

we will be able to retain that feeling," she said.

Irvine Smith shared other memories Tuesday of her childhood and

the battles she fought as an adult with those she calls the Irvine

Co. management, not a term of endearment. It was an informal talk,

more like a chat among friends.

"She did exactly what I hoped she would do," said conservancy

President Carolyn Wood.

A capacity crowd was on hand to hear Irvine Smith.

"My goal has been to keep the master plan for the Irvine Ranch in

place, which included the park at Crystal Cove and large amounts of

open space," she told them.

At its largest, the ranch was 120,000 acres.

"As a child it was like living in your own country," Irvine Smith


It was still 93,000 acres when Irvine Smith became a member of the

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