By Breeana Greenberg
Pines Park and Palisades Gazebo Park in Capistrano Beach will be added to Dana Point’s list of historic sites following a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission on Monday night, Oct. 24.
With the additions to the Historic Resource Register, both sites may receive plaques denoting their significance to Capistrano Beach’s development. The two parks, both a part of the Doheny development in the 1920s, are the last city-owned properties to be eligible for designation as a historic site.
Commissioner Eric Nelson noted that recognizing historical sites is important “for all cities to think about, but a city like ours that’s been around for a long time before we were incorporated with a lot of history, the fact that the Doheny family is part of that history and this is a park that they built, is an important element.”
In a letter supporting the addition of both sites to the historic register, Dana Point Historical Society President Barbara Johannes and Preservation Chair Keith Johannes wrote that the parks “are historic sites that contribute to the eclectic visual character of our community and serve as reminders of the City of Dana Point’s rich and colorful past, for the enrichment of current and future generations.”
“The historic designation of Pines Park and Palisades Gazebo Park recognize their significance in the unique history of Capistrano Beach within the City of Dana Point,” the letter continued.
Palisades Gazebo was identified as a historic resource during Historic Inventory Surveys in 1997 and 2015. Pines Park was not identified at the time, as the surveys focused on structures that were historic landmarks.
“The gazebo and its surrounding park are significant for their association with Dana Point’s earliest development patterns and for reflecting the vision of the Doheny Family,” according to the city’s staff report.
The original gazebo on Palisades Drive was restored in 1978, according to the Dana Point Historical Society.
Pines Park, named after the large number of mature pine trees throughout the park, once had a “wood viewing gazebo that provided sweeping views of Capistrano Bay, as well as stairs and walking paths, stone retaining walls and various other site features.”
According to the staff report, photos from the early 1930s show a gazebo and rose garden on the grounds once referred to as the “Bowl Gardens,” now an empty dust bowl.
The gazebo deteriorated over the years, and by the late 1960s, it was demolished by the county because of public safety concerns.
Though there is no longer a gazebo at Pines Park, the staff report notes that “the continuous use of the site as a public open space, as well as its remnant features, convey the history of the Capistrano Beach community, specifically with early efforts of community planning and development.”
Neither of the parks was found to be eligible for the National or California Register of historic sites.
The designation will have no limitation on future improvements to the sites, Dana Point Planning Division Senior Planner John Ciampa explained. The historic registry is a local list and not affected by the California Environmental Quality Act, which protects buildings constructed more than 50 years ago.
With the designation, both sites may receive a plaque denoting its historic significance. These plaques could be a chance for visitors and residents alike to learn more about Dana Point’s development and history, Johannes said.
Planning Commission Chair John Gabbard added that he’d like to see the Historical Society work with the city to come up with “some kind of narrative on the plaque that talks to the history of the area and how Capistrano Beach came into existence.”
“The park is really a focal point of that part of our community,” Gabbard continued, “so anything that we can do to bring that up and talk about it, I think is money well spent.”
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org