A restoration of almost 5 acres of City-owned open space in Laguna Canyon is nearing the first phase of completed improvements. The restoration of this parcel, known as the DeWitt property, includes removal of non-native trees and shrubs, re-contouring of the “dirt piles” along approximately 1,000 feet of Laguna Canyon Road frontage, and installing of rustic lodge pole pine rail fencing along the roadway to define the property line.
“The DeWitt property project is the result of a successful partnership to restore open space in Laguna Canyon,” said Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig. “We are thrilled to help preserve and restore this property for future generations and could not have done so without the City Council’s support.”
The 110-acre DeWitt property was purchased by the City in 1991. Throughout its history, the property once contained an orchard of walnut trees, was later used as a hog farm, and finally a riding stable. Remnant walnut trees still exist on the site and were retained. The site borders Anneliese School to the north and the Sun Valley neighborhood to the south.
Phase 1 of the 4.8-acre restoration included the re-contouring of dirt piles at the site leftover from storm run-off following the Toll Road construction and decades of illegal dumping. Numerous tires, metal pipes, concrete chunks, and related materials were also removed from the site as part of Phase 1 restoration. Phase 2 will begin November 1 and includes the planting of native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and wildflowers.
“This project will not only clean up the area and restore it to its natural beauty, but also create public trails parallel to Laguna Canyon Road to provide an off-street alternative for pedestrians, as well as nature trails along Laguna Canyon Creek,” Pietig said.
Laguna Greenbelt Board Members prepared a Master Plan for restoring and enhancing Laguna Canyon Creek in 2015, and the DeWitt property restoration was one of their recommended action areas. The project was presented to the California River Parkways Grant Program, with support and sponsorship by the City of Laguna Beach Water Quality Department.
“The DeWitt property is one of the last sections of a soft bottom Laguna Creek south of the Toll Road, and it is wonderful to have it restored to its natural splendor,” said Laguna Greenbelt Board Member Bob Borthwick.
The project was funded by $500,000 from the State of California River Parkways Grant Program, along with $125,000 City matching funds. Amongst competition from agencies and communities throughout the State, the DeWitt project received the maximum grant amount that was awarded.
Supplemental funding and donations were provided by the Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation and the Laguna Greenbelt, Incorporated. Project direction is provided by the City’s Water Quality Department, with project management and implementation provided by the Laguna Canyon Foundation. Project design and coordination was by BGB Design Group.
“Restoring this critical resource, one of the last natural creeks left in Laguna, is something the City can be proud of for generations,” said Hallie Jones, Executive Director of Laguna Canyon Foundation.
“When the State’s project evaluation team visited the City, they could tell that everyone involved was highly enthusiastic and committed to the project,” said Laguna Beach’s Director of Water Quality, David Shissler. “Collaborating with the Laguna Canyon Foundation, the Laguna Greenbelt, the Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation and BGB Design Group has been a pleasure.”