Big Bend Restoration

Creating a community trailhead and wildlife corridor


Current Status: In Progress | Start Date: May 2011 | Expected Completion: September 2016 | Project Head: Derek Ostensen

After nearly four years, the cottages at Big Bend are being dismantled to make way for a new community trailhead and wildlife corridor. Within approximately 16 months, the 3.7-acre City-owned property in Laguna Canyon will be transformed from a dirt lot into a vibrant community and natural resource at the gateway to Laguna’s downtown. The property will be restored with native oaks, sycamores and coastal sage scrub, as well as public trails that will provide improved public access to more than 20,000 acres of adjacent open space.

“Though it is difficult to say goodbye to the cottages,” says Derek Ostensen, President of Laguna Canyon Foundation, “their removal allows the property to be restored to a wonderful new community asset and wildlife corridor.”

With a limited grant allocation to complete the project, Laguna Canyon Foundation is grateful that several local companies and organizations have provided generous donations. Waste Management donated much of the cost of debris disposal.

“Waste Management has collaborated on a number of green projects with the Laguna Beach community, including several e-waste recycling and beach cleanup events,” notes Michelle Clark, Community Relations Director for Waste Management. “We were pleased to provide a donation to help this important park and wildlife project become a reality.”

Thanks to generous donations from the Orange County Conservation Corps and Gregg Abel Design and Construction, Inc., partial deconstruction of the cottages was possible rather than outright demolition. This has allowed large portions of the Big Bend cottages to be re-used in other Laguna Beach cottages, allowing their unique history to live on in a different form.

“We were happy to provide an in-kind grant for this community project to help re-use the historic cottages,” says Josh Volp of the Orange County Conservation Corps. “In addition, the project provided valuable job skills training for 15 at-risk young adults.”

Gregg Abel, who provided a donation to support the project and also on-site deconstruction and safety training for the Corps, adds, “Just seeing those young men and, yes, one young woman, gave me such a good feeling about salvaging wood, but more importantly salvaging lives.”

In all, four local families who requested materials from the site will recycle the historic cottages into their own Laguna Beach cottages or artwork. Recycled materials from the cottages include lumber, cabinets, light fixtures, mirrors and vintage doors. Following removal of the cottages, the next phases of the restoration and trailhead project will begin immediately, including elimination of invasive species, planting of native habitat and installation of public trails.

“This property is truly a community treasure,” notes Max Borella, Executive Director of Laguna Canyon Foundation. “Its spectacular cliffs, abundant wildlife and close proximity to miles of wilderness trails make it an incredible public resource. Laguna Canyon Foundation deeply appreciates the contributions of the companies and organizations who have generously donated to the project, as well as the City Council, which deserves a lot of credit for their vision in stewarding this project forward.”