Laguna Beach home to bike trails

Those who live and work in the canyon call it the "Wild West." Eclectic businesses, services and organizations, such as Jeeps R Us, the Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, McCormick & Sons mortuary, and the Laguna Canyon artists' studios, cradle the long country road, holding a part of the community in a time capsule

The canyon is also home to the day laborer site, the homeless shelter and the resource center

However, some people question if the area can stay the same with tourism, increasing development in Irvine, traffic and high-priced homes that reflect a standard of living that's higher than what most can afford

The residents are characterized by a sense of hardiness. And it's no wonder – they have been hit hard by destructive fires and floods over the last 70 years, taking their homes, businesses and even people in the mudflow. During the 1993 fires, for instance, an employee of one local business called the owner while standing on the roof of the store. As embers landed on the roof, he broke a skylight to grab documents and computers. The building could have gone up in a flash because of the acetone barrels used for making boards, but that didn’t stop him

Daisymae Blossom lives off Woodland Drive, a street that used to be the center of it all. She arrived with her ex-husband in 1969. Without a place to stay, they camped in the street, only to wake up surrounded by a pack of 15 dogs. The dogs belonged to the neighborhood to ward off strangers, she said. She remembers living next door to a guy named Crazyhorse, a sword-swallowing Cajun Indian. His parrot Pedro used to walk the telephone lines. One day Blossom was walking outside and thought she heard someone cursing at her. It was the bird

The Laguna College of Art + Design, in the canyon since the '70s, plans to expand to 650 students over the next 10 years, which means the campus may look at adding more buildings near the main campus. And the area is about to get some neighbors up the road. The Irvine Co. will complete three new communities in the next two years, two on Laguna Canyon Road and an apartment community called at the former Wild Rivers site. The developments will have close to 900 homes and approximately 2,000 apartments

The positioning of these communities doesn't pose a threat to Laguna Canyon, according to Mary Fergaus, the former and founding executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation. At a recent City Council meeting, Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson questioned the potential traffic from the new neighbors

Much of the nature seen in the canyon is part of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. If it weren't for the community, City Council and public agencies, the canyon would look radically different today, Fergaus said. In the '80s, the Irvine Co., which owned the property, was going to create a community called Laguna Laurel, with about 3,500 homes, a school and a firehouse, she added

Aside from more traffic and less hippies, most say the canyon hasn't changed that much over the years. However, the same question always lingers in residents' minds. People like Haines wonder if the rural and bohemian culture of the canyon can outlast the "mansionization" and commercialism of downtown