|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.