Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at squick@voiceofoc.org.

Laguna Beach’s popular Main Beach park will keep its grass.

With $600,000 in design and renovations planned for the prime attraction, city staff had suggested taking out the green turf to conserve water.

More than a dozen residents spoke at a City Council meeting last month in favor of keeping the grass.

“You’re cutting to the bone if you start taking out grass at Main Beach, that is a memorable view,” Jan Hobbs told the council, prompting other residents to agree with her. The majority of the council wants to keep the grass but encouraged city staff to look into a more efficient irrigation system.

The city spends approximately $40,000 a year to maintain the landscaping at Main Beach, of which half is for the turf alone. The grassy area uses two million gallons of water every year compared to the showers, drinking fountains, and restrooms that use one million gallons, according to a city staff report. This high water usage raised the concern of the city staff.

While Councilman Peter Blake said he thought “Main Beach is pathetic. It doesn’t do anything for me,” many residents opposed the notion saying it is a beautiful window to the sea and a place that’s special to them.

The city has set aside $100,000 to redesign the park and $500,000 for the construction itself. The focus of the discussion at the Oct. 15 council meeting was squarely on landscaping.

Apart from the grass, new designs for the benches were presented with the idea of keeping the historical plaques they currently display. Other small features like cobblestone pathways and new trash receptacles are being considered.

Involved in the park’s original design, architect Bob Borthwick told the council that spending “$100,000 to look at redoing the park is an expense that is unnecessary” and that its views should not be spoiled by overdevelopment.

Mayor Bob Whalen said “the little stuff has got to be fixed,” referring to park benches, trashcans, areas of cobblestone, and street lanterns as there has not been a full renovation since 1970. However, he asked the grass not to be removed and said he knows many benefit from the turf.

Whalen also favored the idea of investing in a drought tolerant lawn to help conserve water. The council generally agreed the grass is a unique feature of Main Beach, and for those who are handicapped, those with small children or grandchildren, or those who just don’t want to take their shoes off find the grass to be more practical.

Staff will obtain final approval for the renovations from the council after rediscussing construction plans and gathering public opinion on the park’s design.

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