Acjachemen Nation member and State Park Educator Jacque Nunez held up a tortoise shell filled with burning sage in the direction of south, then west, then north and then east. In front of two dozen ceremony attendants, she offered a blessing and dedicated the newly opened El Moro campground at on Thursday.
"Where we are, my ancestors were here," said Nunez, "and it’s very circular to come here and to know that I can share our history. The gift the creator gave to me and my husband is to be camp hosts ... [at Crystal Cove State Park] ... that we could wake up and feel this breeze."
TO VIEW A SLIDESHOW FROM THE CAMPGROUND'S OPENING CEREMONIES, CLICK THE PHOTO BOX TO THE RIGHT --->
Nunez said a prayer and sang a song in the Acjachemen language.
Executive Director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Michael O'Connell was on hand at the dedication ceremony.
"This spectacular area," said O'Connell, "is in fact the last part of a landscape that stretches all the way from the Santa Ana Mountains to the sea and it is now all in public hands as of last year. There are a lot of ways to visit it. It’s a special place because there is nowhere else in California that I know of where you can get that kind of experience from the mountains all the way to the sea. We are thrilled and humbled to be part of the program here."
"The El Moro opening is amazing. When I was a little kid, my parents used to bring me to the coast of California and it would look like this. So much of it has changed over time. Now I can bring my kids here and they can have the same kind of experience, so it’s very exciting."
Crystal Cove State Park Superintendent Todd Lewis addressed the crowd. He thanked the Acquisitions and Development Department, Los Angeles Engineering, District Superintendent Ken Kramer, and division chiefs for their support "to realize a 30-year vision."
"It's my deep honor to welcome each of you to our newly dedicated and officially opened Moro Canyon area."
CCSP Interpretive Naturalist Winter Bonnin has worked at the park for 13 years.
"It’s a pretty specataular monumental occasion," said Bonnin. "After so many years it seems like it has come full circle ... sort of a fruition of so many years of attempting to turn this area back to the people so everybody can enjoy it."
Bonnin said, "We will do junior ranger programs, campfire programs, back country hikes and beach walks. We have a beautiful amphitheater and we do school programs. It’s very exciting. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. All of a sudden you’ve got this brand new spot to enjoy."
Crystal Cove Alliance President Harry Helling said, "It’s been a difficult period for our state parks. To have something like this open up during, really, the most difficult period of state parks is a testament to the committed and hard-working staff that is here providing recreation and conservation for our public lands."
"We’re celebrating," said Helling, "the hard work of the people and a public agency and a local community against all odds to open something big and beautiful that will forever be an asset to the community."
Jacque Nunez said, "In 2009, I was given the honor of being the Educator of the State of California in Indian Education. I love what I do and to work with the staff here and to know that I'm doing what I was meant to do."
"It was because of the partnerships that I created," Nunez said, "with the State and with the Mission and local schools, that my husband Ed and I were asked to be hosts of the campground."
"To me, it's like a full circle," said Nunez, "that my ancestors began here, and now I'm here. In my language, we sing a song that means 'We're still here, we're still standing, we're still singing.'"
Nunez said, "When I'm here and I look out, it is that kind of heartfelt connection, to know that this is what my ancestors looked at. That's what's so beautiful that there still is this land. Thank goodness to those like the Conservancy that protected it."