If it weren't for the foresight and resolve of a few "radical activists", it wouldn't be like this today.
In 1964, Laguna Beach developed the first access standards in an early effort to prevent over development in the hillsides and canyons. While it may have been too late to stop soon-to-be calamitous developments like Bluebird Canyon, it did begin to slow development into other parts of town. In 1967, a group of local activists founded Laguna Greenbelt, an organization that wanted to build upon these access standards, and preserve all the remaining hillsides, canyons, lakes, and open space around Laguna. And though the rest of the county was then laughing at Laguna's "eccentric" ways back then, they would soon come to appreciate all this "eccentricity".
Through the 1980s, Laguna Greenbelt and other environmentalists pushed and pushed and pushed to establish the open space around Laguna as parkland for everyone to enjoy. Heck, they even tried to get Congress to declare Laguna Canyon as a national park! However, they could not seem to find success...
Until 1990, when the Irvine Company agreed to give up its plans for development and sell the land. And oh yes, in November of that year 80% of Laguna voters agreed to tax themselves in order for their city to chip into the purchase of this last chunk of Laguna Canyon in order for the entire canyon to be preserved as parkland for all to enjoy.
In 1991, local environmentalists then established the Laguna Canyon Foundation to ensure the good stewardship of the new Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. And since then, Laguna has continued to carry the gold standard of environmental protection and preservation in Orange County. Local activists truly have been able to work with local government, regional developers, and Laguna residents to ensure that Laguna remains as wild and wonderful as ever.
(Yes, I really wrote that in March 2007!)
Ironically enough, the stereotypical "conservative bastion" of Orange County is home to such amazing environmental treasures like Laguna Beach, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Crystal Cove, and Trestles because of "radical" conservationists who recognized the need to preserve these unique natural wonders for future generations. They saw these places for what they were, and they realized the consequences of letting them forever vanish.
I was thinking about this as the battle over Lake Tahoe continues to heat up. Apparently, the usual suspects in the gaming-mining-lobbyist industrial complex are now throwing insults and calling Brian Bahouth & me "the professional environmental industry". Oh, really? So does this now make me eligible for an official "professional left" membership card?
It seems like the the usual suspects in the gaming-mining-lobbyist industrial complex have not yet learned what developers and the greater community in Orange County had to learn the hard way. People do not go to natural beauties like Lake Tahoe and Laguna Beach simply to go to the mall, look at McMansions, and/or gaze at massive casino hotels. They go for the beaches!
Think about it. One can get malls, McMansions, and casinos anywhere around Reno or Las Vegas. Where else can one find a clear lake like Tahoe surrounded by lush forests and stunning mountains?
Funny enough, the very same forces pushing for more residential and commercial development in Crystal Cove and Laguna Beach now embrace the protected public lands and essentially use them for good PR! I still hope that one day, the developers at Lake Tahoe will also recognize this. Good environmental stewardship doesn't have to mean "bad for business".
So why am I writing this rant on July 4? Let me explain. First off, I am visiting my old stomping grounds, so all of this is fresh in my mind again. And secondly, I felt the need to correct the assumptions often made about "enviro-nazis" ruining America and preventing "free enterprise" from improving Lake Tahoe.
I love America, and I love Nevada. I want to see Lake Tahoe thrive. And I'm sure that for many who live in Northern Nevada and Northern California, they see it as their patriotic duty to protect and defend what makes America great. And let's face it, where would we be without our great beaches, deserts, mountains, forests, and lakes?
Frankly, I'm peeved that environmentalists are always derided as "commie loving extremists" when we just want to save the natural beauty of our country. That's why the environmental grassroots activists worked over the years to preserve natural treasures in Orange County and across California. And hopefully, we still have time to stop what would be the horrific undoing of what has made Lake Tahoe so great.