New El Moro Campground to Open Soon
In one week’s time, campers will begin to pitch their tents and park their RVs on 35 acres of prime coastal real estate near Laguna Beach, Calif., surrounded by native shrubs and flowers as they drink in the sweeping ocean view — no matter which of the 60 sites they camp in.
Statep officials will throw open the gates July 1 to the just-completed, $15 million Moro Campground, the first coastal coastal campground to be built in decades and likely one of the last, the Orange County Register reported.
“There’s no such thing as a bad view,” said Todd Lewis, superintendent at Crystal Cove State Park. “Every site is a view site.”
The reservation list for the campground, part of the state park, grew to the hundreds almost immediately when they opened Wednesday.
The campground is built on the site of the old El Morro Village trailer park, once a scene of conflict and confrontation as residents resisted state parks’ plans to convert it into a campground.
Nothing is left of the old place except the occasional bougainvillea and other non-native plants that poke through the earth, Lewis said.
They’ve been mostly replaced by some 18,000 natives, including lupines and California poppies still flowering on part of the site.
Concrete and asphalt from the trailer park also live on, ground up and recycled for use in walkways and viewing areas throughout the campground.
Even one of the ‘Rs’ was dropped; the nearby elementary school and trailer park are “El Morro,” but the canyon and the campground are “Moro.”
The “test campers” — among them parks employees or school children invited to break the place in this week — were Randy Robert, of Riverside, and his twin sons, one who does maintenance work for State Parks.
Robert said his parents owned a lot in the old trailer park but sold it in 1981, and that he misses the place.
“I think we sold the lot quite too soon,” he said, since the fight over the property continued for years after.
But he was captivated by the new campground.
“This is beautiful, where you get a view like this,” he said. “I will definitely be back.”
The campground layout includes upper terraces for recreational vehicles and lower ones for tents, van conversions and soft-sided trailers. The separation will be rigidly enforced, Lewis said.
A third zone is reserved for day use and includes picnic areas and access via wooden bridge to the back country trails of Crystal Cove State Park.
A 1930s-era tunnel beneath Pacific Coast Highway leads to the beach.
The cost of a night’s campout — $65 a night per site for RVs and trailers, $50 for tents and soft-sided vehicles — sounds a bit pricey, though Lewis says it is in line with comparable campgrounds.
Reservations can be made at the Reserve America website, or by calling (800) 444-7275.
There’s also a public open house June 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lewis says he expects plenty of openings until word gets around that the new campground is open. In perhaps a year’s time, he said, he expects it to be full most of the time.
After years of planning and preparation, the campground was built using park bonds that predated the state financial crisis, and survived a bond freeze in 2009. Construction began in 2008.
“It’s been a labor of love for many years,” Lewis said. “Now we want the public to come and enjoy what they chose to allow us to build.”