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Campground raises new concerns

Crystal Cove’s new state park project abuts El Morro Elementary School and shares an entry.

November 20, 2008|By Cindy Frazier

It’s been almost 30 years since a campground was proposed at the site of the former El Morro Village Trailer Park at Crystal Cove.

Now trucks are rolling and a new $22 million campground for RVs and tents, plus other amenities, is beginning to take shape on the 35-acre site.

The park is expected to open in spring or summer of 2010, said Ken Kramer, Orange Coast District superintendent of the state Department of Parks and Recreation, which owns the park.

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Earth-moving equipment is contouring a new parking lot and amphitheater at the lower level of the site, while the old trailer park configuration makes a perfect RV park on the upper property, Kramer said.

The terraced RV sites will maximize ocean views and should be a big draw when the park opens.

But this highly anticipated park — one of the last expected to be built along the California coast — is creating a number of issues for its nearest neighbor, El Morro Elementary School.

The park project — which survived state budget cuts and years of legal challenges — has a new wrinkle: concerns about how it will affect the school, which is located due north of the park grounds.

School-park issues

Opening up the park to RVs and the expected popularity of the park with its spectacular ocean views and adjacency to beautiful Crystal Cove itself has raised many parent concerns.

Some of the issues — including the fact that the RV campground will be located close to the school — have been resolved, at least in theory, according to school and park officials.

A 25-foot buffer zone and earthen berm will separate the campground from the school, and restrictions will be imposed on the campers, who will not be allowed to burn their campfires, or make loud noises during school hours, said Norma Shelton, Laguna Beach Unified School District’s vice principal for business services.

In addition, two camp hosts instead of one — which is the norm for the state park system — will be at the site 24 hours.

The camp hosts are volunteers who stay in their own RVs and monitor for problems.

The hosts are in addition to park rangers and other state employees who will also be at the site at all times, said Kramer.

A committee, including school representatives, will select camp hosts from a pool of applicants through an interview process, he said.

Shared entry

The most difficult issue for school officials and parents is how the school will share its entrance with the state park.

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