Spindrift October 14, 2021


Our able V.P. in charge of programs, Mitch Mitchell, introduced our speaker, Kate Wheeler, CEO of the Crystal Cove Conservancy, who attended our luncheon along with Cindy Otto, its President and principal fundraiser. Kate gave a very informative presentation entitled “Protecting Crystal Cove for Generations to Come.”
Kate started with the Conservancy in 2015, and became the CEO a couple of years later.

Kate Wheeler

Crystal Cove State Park has a very interesting history, going back thousands of years starting with the indigenous people who inhabited the area, and who in the 17th century were renamed by the missionaries as the Juaneno and Gabrieleno Indian tribes. For the last 100 years or so, the land was part of the Irvine Ranch, and was used for raising cattle and farming. Irvine Ranch leased plots of land to those who wanted to farm them, and a lot of the leases went to Japanese- American families who lived there and worked the land. Their children went to public schools on weekdays, so a Japanese community center was built on Crystal Cove where the children could learn their language and culture.

When the US entered WW II, the families were deported to Arizona, and none of them returned; the Community Center, however, continues to exist on the bluff.

The primary objective of the Conservancy is to work in partnership with California State Parks to provide stewardship for Crystal Cove’s 2,800 acres of public lands, including the beach cottages, 2,400 acres of pristine back country, 3 miles of rocky beach habitat, and 400 acres of coastal bluff habitat. The Cove also includes the State Marine Conservation Area. While overseeing the Cove, the Conservancy has developed a nationally recognized STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program which uses its programs to teach students in conservation and environmental activities; Crystal Cove State Park is considered to be an ideal classroom and learning lab, and the Conservancy wants to bring into the park individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to engage in these activities.

A concern is that middle and high school students are generally less interested in science, and that there is a need to develop a stewardship to ensure the continuance of this park and others like it.

The Conservancy provides the educational programs which hopefully will continue to generate such interest. Currently, its students are coming from Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Garden Grove, and have had little experience with the beach or the ocean. Most of the students come from lower income families, and are therefore being given the opportunity to expand their horizons. The effort seems to be working, and about a third of the students have decided to pursue a STEM educational program.

The cottages at Crystal Cove were actually originally built by squatters in the 20’s and 30’s, and in the 1940’s the Irvine Company leased the properties to the tenants that lived there. In 1979, the property was sold to the California State Park System. The cottages are in various stages of disrepair, and the Conservancy, in collaboration with the State Park System, is in the process of restoring them to what they looked like during the period from 1939 to 1952, a project which is costing upwards of $40 million. Presently, 29 of the original 45 cottages have been restored, and 22 units are available for overnight rentals, with rates ranging from $39 to $277 per night. To reserve a cottage takes a little perseverance.

All cottages are reserved via www.reservecalifornia.com and you will need to dedicate yourself to check every morning on their website at 8am and see what becomes available 6 months ahead of time; there is apparently a lot of competition to make these reservations!

For all things having to do with the Crystal Cove State Park and Conservancy, please visit their website at www.crystalcove.org.

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