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Our Laguna: Conservancy hosts speaker on Crystal Cove

April 04, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

Crystal Cove may not be in Laguna Beach, but it is of Laguna Beach, if measured by the Laguna Canyon Conservancy response to a program presented Monday by Laura Davick, Crystal Cove Alliance founder and director of external affairs.

The group applauded the accomplishments of the alliance, as outlined by Davick, and future plans.

Lagunans have been involved in the preservation of the cove since scores of them participated in the successful efforts in the mid-1990s to halt the state plan to develop a luxury resort on the site and to preserve the historic district on Laguna's door step. Davick wants to keep the relationship strong.

"We are trying to reach out to Laguna Beach," she said.

The alliance is working with the Boys & Girls Club, Laguna Art Museum and the Laguna Community Foundation, which has put together a $500,000 endowment fund.

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Today, Crystal Cove is considered to be one of, if not the most successful, of the 278 state parks, Davick said.

The park was once a part of the land grant James Irvine and other Northern California ranchers bought from Jose Andres Sepulveda in1864. Irvine later bought out his partners and passed the land to his son, James II.

The Irvine Co. was created from that land deal in 1894, and leased some of the land to Japanese farmers who built homes, barns and a community center, known as the Laguna Beach Language School, which has been preserved in the park.

After the Japanese were interred in World War II, forever losing their hillside farms and homes, the land was leased for farming, equestrian use, cattle grazing, filmmakers and vacationers, according to a park brochure.

Eventually the cove was made into a private community, recognized in 1979 by the National Register of Historic Places.

The community called their Historic District "A Step Back in Time," and a pricey step was taken by the state to acquire it.

"It was the most expensive land ever sold to California for a state park," Davick said.

But the state didn't know what a gem it had.

Crystal Cove had drawn visitors since the 1920s. Some of them stayed, living in the cottages that the state wanted to tear down to build a glitzy resort, to the dismay of the owners, historians and preservationists.

"My mother was a tent camper in the cove in 1937 and my father came in 1940," Davick said. "They met in the tents and acquired Cottage Two."

Davich was just a toddler when the family moved in.

"Toni [Iseman] has said Crystal Cove is part of my DNA. I think she is right," Davick said.

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