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As It Was: Wildlife Preserve Replaces Coastal Development Plan

In 1907, an entrepreneur arrived in Crescent City, Calif., with big plans for the Lake Earl lagoon close to the Pacific Ocean 11 miles south of the Oregon border.

The man, a Mr. Wooley, held a series of meetings in the struggling community, proposing to dig a channel from the 6,000-acre lagoon to the ocean.  He envisioned an outer harbor just inside the entrance and an inner harbor on the eastern shore of the lagoon. 

The plans, combined with a proposed railroad from Crescent City to Grants Pass, had city officials dreaming big.  They formed committees and drew plans for a thousand building lots around the proposed harbor, with business buildings bordering the waterfront. 

One observer said people were walking on air, thinking such a wonderful thing could happen to them.
Before the project got off the ground, Mr. Wooley dropped out and left town, citing family circumstances.  The sandy area served mostly agricultural interests until the 1920s when conservationists began an effort to preserve it for wildlife. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife purchased Lake Earl in 1979 for a coastal wetland habitat preserve.


Sources: Hughes, Ralph L. Tales of Del Norte County. Crescent City California, Del Norte County Historical Society, 1997, pp. 78-79; "Lake Earl Wildlife Area." California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CDFW, 6 Aug. 2019, www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Lake-Earl-WA. Accessed 23 Oct. 2019.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.