Conservation Update 2018 Sep | OC Parks – Dana Point Harbor Funding; Bolsa Chica Funding


OC’s regional park system is one of the County’s most interesting, appealing, and unique features. The system is the result of a legacy of park stewardship that began in 1897 with the establishment of Irvine Regional Park—the first park of its type in California.

Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks (FHBP) has recently released a 14–‐part series of videos that relate the history of OC Parks and of each OC Parks facilities: parks, harbors, beaches, historic sites, and trail systems. The comprehensive history was produced for FHBP by Eric Jessen, retired OC Parks’ Chief of Planning, Acquisition, and Development. Much of the material in the videos comes from Eric’s personal archives and recollections, and his narration of the presentations adds the color and insight that can only come from someone who had a big part in it all. The videos may be viewed at


Between 1994 and 2017, a total of $250 million was redirected from OC Parks’ budget toward paying off OC’s bankruptcy. Parks’ capital improvements, land acquisition, and deferred maintenance suffered during those 23 years. With the bankruptcy finally paid off, there was a great sense of “now we can get things done” among Parks’ staff and supporters, and plans to do so began to be put into motion.

Planning to revitalize Dana Point Harbor’s aging facilities has been under way for a decade–‐plus. The harbor was under the old OC Harbors, Beaches and Parks Dept., so came under OC Parks when the old HBP Dept. was reorganized as OC Parks. DP Harbor revitalization was to be a public/private partnership and revenue–‐neutral—not impacting OC Parks budget. However, in July, the OC Board of Supervisors approved a DP Harbor Revitalization Plan that will get much of its funding from OC Parks’ budget—nearly $500 million over 66 years. In other words: after barely a year of a fully functional budget for OC Parks, the Revitalization Plan proposes to use nearly $7.6 million annually for just the Harbor.

OCCNPS was among the signatories of a group letter, organized by Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks and sent to the Supervisors before their vote, strongly protesting this diversion of OC Parks’ budget monies. Such a diversion will affect all OC Parks’ programs, including its commitments to protect, restore, enhance all the Parks’ native vegetation.

The letter states in part: “We do not believe it is in the best interest of OC, its park facilities, and the taxpayers to have such an ongoing commitment to one Supervisorial district, for the next 66 years, at the expense of all the other districts. … No one district should raid the budget for such a district–‐specific project shortfall. The Fifth District may choose to allocate nearly $100 million toward the shortfall, but the other four districts should not be forced to subsidize it.”

In addition, the Environmental Impact Report is 12 years old. At a minimum, an addendum should be prepared that considers:

  1. Impacts from climate change and sea level rise.
  2. Cumulative impacts from ongoing redevelopment and numerous infrastructure deficiencies in the harbor’s environs.

The revitalization project must still pass muster with the Coastal Commission. Stay tuned!


There’s just $100,000 still to be raised to purchase and restore the Ridge and Goodell properties—the last pieces of Bolsa Chica threatened with development. For background, and to donate see­goodell-­preservation-­ agreement/.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair