MRCA Announces Campground At Proposed Ballfield Site On Bluffs Park; But Puerco Campground Is Dead

Written by on December 14, 2019

Malibu residents who opposed ballfields on the western part of Bluffs Park … will now get a campground there instead.

M R C A director Joe Edmiston yesterday unveiled plans to build a 90 person campground on the westernmost end of the vacant land across PCH from Pepperdine University. 

Standing on the bluff with members of the Coastal Commission yesterday …  Edmiston said the new campground on Bluffs Park will be unlike any other campground in Malibu.


“What we are going to be proposing is a facility… not exclusively …  but aimed at probably the most oppressed community in southern California and California at large… and that is the folks who are in foster care.”

The new MRCA campground at Bluffs Park would give priority access to foster children … either in groups or with their parents.

And it would be open to the general public as well.

The plan is for 90 people at campsites … clustered on the western-most mesa of Bluffs Park.

Some of them would be empty spaces for tents or sleeping bags … others would be yurts … tent-like structures that could be rented.

There would be no food facilities or campfires.

Food trucks would be used to serve the foster kids and presumably others.

An M R C A planner … Mario Sandoval … says this campground would ban open flame … and would have a resident caretaker living in a new cabin on the site to enforce that.


“Our main concern is always public safety and we recognize that this is a very high severity zone and so we would only propose cold camping here with no campfires.

“We recognize that some of our other properties were we have camping now, at Ramirez Canyon, we have an off-season between September Fifteenth and January Fifteenth, which is the highest activity for red fight days and fire severity in the state.

“And so we recognize that and so any program that we have an operation here would not be in operation during that time.”

The MRCA campground plan puts all the camping activity on the western end of Bluffs Park …

It leaves the central mesa open … that’s the area crisscrossed by trails that link Pepperdine and the Bluffs park parking lot to the beach access ways down on Malibu Road.

Some environmental groups disagree with the theory that there is any developable space on Bluffs Park at all.

They say native plants have covered the entire mesa … the flat land where the Adamson family used to farm lima beans a half century ago.

Joe Edmiston says his campgrounds will avoid impinging on environmentally sensitive habitat area … ESHA.


“I just made a decision that it was just not worth the hassle, and the lawsuits, to consider ESHA.

“We don’t have enough coastal camping no doubt about it.

“But we don’t have any camping for this particular population there’s nothing there’s nothing on the coast.”

Edmiston profusely thanked the Malibu city council for making the Bluffs Park camping plan possible.

Earlier city councils had worked to block camping at Bluffs … by engineering a trade with the MRCA over control of the site.

The city was going to give up Charmlee Park … an isolated wilderness park way up Encinal Canyon Road … and miles from the city of Malibu population.

In exchange … MRCA was going to give up control of Bluffs Park … which the city Council at the time had plans for ballfields and other badly needed City recreation facilities.

But some residents objected.

also … residents in western Malibu said they feared losing control of Charmlee Park … and that the MRCA would put camping there.

And city council members Skylar peak … Jefferson Wagner and Mikke Pierson voted to walk away from the park swap last April.

Edmiston says that action gave him an opening … to build the campgrounds he has been trying to build at Bluffs park since 1975.


“Lo and behold … and I don’t know all the politics behind it … and I would go crazy if I tried to follow following politics in the city of Malibu … gave up that lease.”

The MRCA decision to build the campground at Bluffs Park means that the agency will not be building campgrounds anytime soon at Charmlee Park in Encinal Canyon.

But it also means that the proposed campground in Puerco Canyon is also dead.

The MRCA has been actively planning to build the campground on land donated to that agency by James Cameron … the film director … in the mountains just west of Pepperdine University.

The problem is … the access road is a narrow track that swirchbacks up a hill… it would be very expensive to rebuild that to county fire department standards.

In front of the coastal commission yesterday … Edmiston threw shade at Malibu … blamed the city for access problems at Puerco Canyon.


“The Puerco is a big issue it has to go through about a mile of the city of Malibu jurisdiction.

“And let’s face it Malibu was welcoming when it was James Cameron you know, Mr. Avatar.

“When it’s a public agency proposing something for the public… They’re a little less welcoming.

And the restrictions that they imposed would’ve cost us about 11 and a half million dollars.”

Fact check.

Not true.

The 11-1/2 million dollar price tag would be to construct the road to the proposed campsite that would meet County Fire Department restrictions … not the City of Malibu.

At the coastal commission meeting on the campsite yesterday … Edmiston graciously allowed city planning Director Bonnie blue to make that point.


“It would have to be adequate access that meets the fire department’s requirements, so it’s not a use specific thing, it’s just the basics of access.

“The City is happy to cooperate in whatever way that we can to help move projects ahead that are safe and help everyone.”

City planning director Bonnie Blue.

So here’s the bottom line…

The Mountains Resource Conservation Authority controls the land.

It’s zoned for coastal visitor serving uses … like camping.

Edmiston claims it won’t touch any ESHA … although that is in dispute.

And the MRCA probably has the entitlements to build its campground at Bluffs Park.

The proposed campground at Puerco Canyon … dead.

The proposed campground at Charmlee … dead … although the MRCA could build one just up the road.

And the new campground on PCH at John Tyler Drive in central Malibu should be open in three years … Joe Edmiston says.

This is not the first grand plan for Bluffs Park.

Edmiston proposed a camping area there 10 years ago … it got shot down in court.

And Edmiston might be thinking very optimistically … on a three year schedule … if lawsuits or other challenges are thrown up.

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