once upon a time…

Once upon a time a group of people fought one huge land developer and won. Back in 1988, artists, politicians, and environmentalists—concerned that the big developer kept carving out more and more  of the beautiful canyon walls surrounding Laguna Beach in order to build more and more homes—organized a protest to save a pristine area along the  Orange County coastline they believed to be a treasure trove of wilderness trails and scenic vistas.

Some 11,000 people turned out to build “The Tell,” a 636-foot wall mural that captured the ridgelines of what is now the Dilley Preserve.

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The Tell Image credit: LagunaBeachIndy.com

Sadly, much of the mural succumbed to a 1993 wildfire. But back in 1989, these activists invoked their talents and founded  the Laguna Canyon Conservancy to thwart the developer’s plans to rip through the canyon land. Somehow, they managed to stop the bulldozers in their tracks and went on to lead the fight to pass a $20 million bond measure that acquired the property so that it would stay open park land. Today, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and its nature center is a place where people can leave behind work schedules and hike, bike, or horseback ride through 40 miles of canyon trails. They might catch a glimpse of red-tailed hawk or a bobcat or spot a mule deer. great-vistas

To all those dedicated activists back then I say, “thank you.” Without them, the area would be just another subdivision full of houses that all look alike. Because of their efforts, thousands visit yearly and still trek through the trails in its natural state. Who says a small group of dedicated people won’t make a difference?

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Image credit: LagunaBeachIndy.com

 

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while Ventura & LA counties burn…

The Santa Monica Mountains average a deadly wildfire every 8 years. Since approximately 1939 there have been 10 deadly wildfires that have popped up in this one area. Fire corridors exist and have for decades, especially during the Santa Ana wind events, which is what’s happening now.  So when the powers that be back in the 1980s decided to extend J. Paul Getty’s personal art collection and house the artworks, antiquities, and sculptures in one central location  where the public could browse and stare at works from Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Monet, they decided on a property above the 405 Freeway, smack dab in the heart of the fire zone.

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Getty Images

Not exactly a smart move at the time. But architect Richard Meier said no problem. The guy promised he knew the dangers of putting priceless works of art at risk in a known fire corridor. Experts say he took major precautions. The center is built from non-combustible materials along with travertine limestone and aluminum panels. But that probably isn’t what secures the works of art. There’s a sophisticated air filtration system that kicks in. It reverses normal air circulation and blows outward, forcing the air out of the galleries. The system then locks down and seals each gallery off from smoke and fire. But the fire has to reach the campus first. According to the Museum, landscapers protected the surrounding hillside by allowing only native vegetation designed to contain wildfires because the plants are supposed to burn out before the fire ever reaches the buildings. Sounds great in theory, right? But this week ,the Skirball Fire came dangerously close. It wasn’t the first time. Back in 2015 the Sepulveda Pass Fire prompted an evacuation of visitors from the museum itself. I was last there in 2014. The site is a major tourist attraction which always seems to be crowded.

But I can’t help wondering when Mother Nature decides to test all the safeguards again—and it isn’t a question of IF, but WHEN—only then will we know for certain that the Getty Museum is truly prepared for a natural disaster, the likes of which many people have already experienced firsthand by losing their homes and everything they owned. My

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Image: AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON

heart goes out to the victims, who didn’t even have time to grab a change of clothes before they had to run for their lives.

New series: A Coyote Wells Mystery

As Halloween approaches and with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I’m settling in for a long winter of writing. For starters, I’ve outlined three books for my new series, A Coyote Wells Mystery.

First up is Mystic Falls scheduled for release on Tuesday, November 7th.

Emotionally reeling after the death of her grandmother, Gemma Channing is settling into Coyote Wells, her hometown where she grew up, after a ten-year absence. While coming to terms with the loss of her Gram, MYSTIC FALLS FINAL coverdisturbing things begin to happen. Women are disappearing. Just when she begins to realize Coyote Wells has changed—and not for the better—she’s forced to bump heads with Lando Bonner, her ex, a man who still carries around a grudge. You might say Lando despises her. But since she’s digging for answers in an effort to explain exactly how her grandmother died, she needs his help. It won’t be easy. Lando has never forgiven her for leaving him. Tensions between the two rise as a killer grips the town in fear. Is it kill or be killed? Who will the killer target next? And when will it all end?

I love dabbling in mysteries and figuring out how to solve them. As you can tell by the continuing theme, Gemma and Lando will have a homicide or two to solve in each book. They’ll have help from an array of quirky characters. I hope you come to love Gemma and Lando as much as I do and hope you settle into the town with all the other odd characters who make Coyote Wells home.

summer + nature = redwoods

redwoods

No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe.

~ John Steinbeck

Summer along the California coast is inspirational, nothing more so than the Redwood National Forest, enjoying it so much I’m making it a feature in the next series.

Out of trash comes a historical landmark

“Anyone can do something with a million dollars. Look at Disney. But it takes more than money to make something out of nothing, and look at the fun I have doing it.”

~ Tressa Prisbrey

Photo Credit: Bottle houses

In 1956 a California woman by the name of Tressa Prisbrey known as “Grandma” to most, began her foray into architecture. By using predominantly discarded beer bottles and other found material from the local dump, the sixty-year-old grandmother started turning her tiny one-third acre property in Simi Valley into something she’d always dreamed of having—she wanted to get rid of the trailer she’d lived in and build an actual house.

Never one with a lot of extra cash on hand, Tressa’s first choice was to use cinder blocks. But cinder blocks were too expensive for her budget. Instead, Tressa improvised. She began looking around her area and started foraging for discarded bottles. Thanks to a nearby landfill, colored glass bottles were a plentiful resource.

Long before recycling gained traction, Tressa took her castoffs and built the house she wanted. She mixed her own cement by hand, and with perseverance, she eventually added fountains and walkways for curb appeal around the original house.

Between 1961 and 1980, Tressa didn’t let up. Her property became known as “Bottle Village.” They called it a village because over the years Tressa built a wall to close it off from the smelly turkey farm adjacent to her property. Tressa eventually added sixteen buildings, themed rooms, a shrine, and a mosaic sidewalk. Somewhere along the way, Tressa’s daughter developed cancer, so Tressa made her a rose garden out of recycled headlights from assorted junk cars left at the dump. Up to 1982 she would give tours of the place, charging 75 cents a head. Visitors often were so blown away by what she’d built out of trash that they gave much more.

Tressa died in 1988 without realizing she’d created a legacy of folk art that would stand until the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit. The earthquake severely damaged the property wrecking much of Tressa’s hard work. After that, community artists rallied and tried to save Tressa’s work but with little success. Still, in 1996 the property became California Historic Landmark No. 939. To this day, a group of artists maintain the Preserve Bottle Village Committee website in hopes of raising enough money to restore Tressa’s project for all to see and enjoy.

Bottle Village remains a testament to one woman’s creativity at a time when she had very little money to work with and relied on her artistic vision.