Village Matters

When and where generosity really counts


By Ann Christoph

Picture a walk down a bark path, through a meadow to an old barn.  Then we turn into the north woods, past a woodland pond with ducks bobbing in the distance.  Deer cross our paths, delicately, unafraid.


Here and there are rustic benches, so although we feel alone here, we also feel welcomed.  We are not intruding but being asked to share the beauty preserved and created in this woodland garden, the Bloedel Reserve on Washington’s Bainbridge Island. Onward to the clearing we find the setting for a country house, French 1930s style.  A perfect English landscape garden with lake, carefully placed trees and beautiful vistas.  The walk continues to views of the Puget Sound, then more woods with wildflowers, Japanese garden, a secluded reflecting pond, always the tall forest separating one experience from another.


It is a gift to be allowed this visit.


The Bloedels donated this garden for the public at the end of their lives, while they could see how the garden visitors appreciated their life’s work.


It reminded me of Hortense Miller’s donated garden and our Laguna Canyon preservation, which relied on the commitment and generosity of Laguna voters raising $20 million and Donald Bren’s gift of the final parcel.


Most of us don’t have this kind of gift, but we do, with thoughtfulness, have the ability to contribute something meaningful in our own community.


The Laguna Beach Community Foundation has been formed to encourage such gifts.  In the past generous donors made gifts of properties to organizations outside of town.  The recipients immediately sold the properties and used the funds to add to their considerable endowments.  How different could have been the result if the properties had been donated for community use right here in Laguna Beach?


What can we donate and enjoy the results right away?  In its first meeting in October the council unanimously endorsed construction of continuous walkways along Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road.  What are the impediments to this obviously desirable plan?  In some places the public easements are too narrow.  More space is needed.


This lack of easement space occurred in South Laguna’s “downtown” area where new medians, pavement and planting has recently been completed.  With the encouragement and explanations provided by Bill Rihn, South Laguna Civic Association president, each of the owners along the length of the project signed the easement papers, making their donation of space for the public.  In return, they can now see parents with strollers, wheelchair users, beach-goers, and shoppers safely traversing and enjoying the improvements.  Merchants have planted flowers, adding their own personal touch.  One gift inspires more.


Along the highway there are dangerous spots where people have to walk in the street to get to the next patch of sidewalk paving.  In one area just north of St. Catherine’s School a man lost his life just walking along the side of the road.  There are other similar perilous situations crying for a safe walkway.


Your generous gift of an easement may save someone’s life and make walking an enjoyable experience for many.


Contact the Laguna Beach Community Foundation (375-7968), or the city manager’s office (497-0704) to facilitate such a donation.  We will be moving ever closer to our goal of a safe continuous walkway system.


We each don’t have a garden or open space land to donate, but we do have something to contribute.  What will be our next gift?



Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor of Laguna Beach.

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