10-05-22 | Department

Laguna Coastline Landscape Survey

We need to be dedicated to preserve what those before us created.
by Ann Christoph, Landscape Architect, ASLA

Laguna Beach was mapped out to pinpoint preservation efforts after being selected as a historic landscape that can be affected by deterioration, by the National Park Service for the Historic American Landscapes Survey in partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
This portion of the Greenbelt is part of the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, under the management of the County of Orange along with the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Management is coordinated through the Coastal Greenbelt Authority.

In cooperation with the Library of Congress, the National Park Service administers the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) in cooperation with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). This program recognizes that historic landscapes are fragile places that can be affected by forces of nature, development, and deterioration. Documentation of these landscapes is important for decisions made that affect them, as well for the understanding of future generations.

A group of volunteer professionals in Laguna Beach, California, having been introduced to the Historic American Landscape Survey opportunity, decided it was important to document landscape and the city of Laguna Beach, its surrounding Greenbelt, and the unique circumstances. The Committee for Preservation of the Laguna Legacy included three landscape architects, Robert Borthwick, Ann Christoph, and Alison Terry, who served as the coordinator with ASLA and the National Park Service. Three photographers, Tom Lamb, Mark Chamberlain and Ron Chilcote, parks professionals, Eric Jessen and Harry Huggins, former councilmember Verna Rollinger and writer/editor Barbara Metzger completed the team. Chilcote coordinated the effort; he and Lamb oversaw the publication of the book, Laguna Beach and the Greenbelt Celebrating a Treasured Historic American Landscape.
Applying the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) program to over 22,000 acres of natural open space surrounding a small city may be unusual, but with Laguna Beach and its Greenbelt there has a strong relationship between the natural landscape and the cultural history that grew from it--the artists that came to paint it from 1900 on and the planning traditions that have led to the careful building and preservation of this unique community. Laguna's history, including early isolation from other development, its role as an arts colony, and its leadership in environmental preservation all stem from the characteristics and disposition of the landscape itself. For example, its beauty inspired community activism and passing of a $20 million bond issue to purchase an early increment of many open space purchases.
The announcement of the acceptance of the submittal by the National Park Service stimulated extensive press coverage of HALS and recognition by city officials. "This national recognition confirms what we know--our unique town is a treasure," commented Mayor, Toni Iseman, "We need to be dedicated to preserve what those before us created. Future generations will thank us for our historic town and the Greenbelt we fought so hard to preserve."


Sign up for
LAWeekly newsletter. Get exclusive content today.