|Portrait of James Dilley by Chip McDermott
40 years ago local bookstore owner, James Dilley had a dream.
Dilley's dream was to create an open space greenbelt between Laguna Beach and other cities similar to the ones he had admired in England. That dream came to be called the Laguna Greenbelt and is now Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Jim Dilley Preserve, Crystal Cove State Park and the Aliso-Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Dilley founded Laguna Greenbelt, Inc, to galvanize the community in support of his effort.
In his town Dilley found fertile soil to plant his ideas, and a band of enthusiastic supporters formed around him. Over the ensuring years this support has not waned, but rather has grown so much that in 1990, 80% of Laguna voters agreed to tax themselves to help buy Laguna Laurel, a crucial piece of the Greenbelt in Laguna Canyon.
Achieving the preservation of the land meant years of talking with local government officials, reading and responding to environmental impact reports, and attending public hearings everywhere, including city councils. county planning commissions, Board of Supervisors, LAFCO, the California Coastal Planning Commission, and various regulatory agencies. In 1980 we approached Congress and almost were successful in having a National Park created in the Greenbelt!
Dilley's legacy was a powerful idea. The organization has fought for over 40 years for the preservation of open space lands and and for the protection of critical wildlife habitat. Some battles were successes, like the one to preserve Laguna Canyon from plans to build residential housing and a luxury golf course. Other battles like the one to defeat the toll road did not succeed. However with almost every battle we were able in most instances to reduce the project's environmental impact.
Today there are over 20,000 contiguous acres of wildlands surrounding Laguna Beach. Laguna Greenbelt. Inc, is proud of its grass roots heritage and continues to be the paradigm for other volunteer organizations.
Now we are reaping the rewards of Jim Dilley’s inspiration and continuing to further his dream.
and be a part of this exciting organization
and help to continue to save and protect
the land around Laguna Beach.