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End of quaintness for San Elijo beach

How California Parks Co. ruined Idyllwild's Garner Valley

Manganelli family's camp store at San Elijo State Beach
  • Manganelli family's camp store at San Elijo State Beach

For the last twelve years, the Manganelli family has operated San Elijo State Beach’s camp store and little restaurant. But on December 13, their Cardiff by the Sea operation has started to come to an end.

That’s when the state’s recent request for proposals to run the concession for the next ten years will close the acceptance of bids. On December 12, leaseholder Laurel Manganelli announced she decided not to put in a bid for a new lease. “They [the state] want too much construction,” she told me, of the mid 1960s building. That, and facing stiff competition from a statewide, large private concessionaire helped in her decision.

“All the locals, [rangers and campers] were for me,” said Manganelli. “But the decision will be made in Sacramento.”

“I’m going after Carlsbad,” she announced. Her brother, Joe Manganelli, has run that state beach’s camp store until his recent retirement. (Manganelli’s mom ran Encinitas’s Moonlight Beach concession from 1978 – 1988, which at the time was also state beach.) “I’m told the RFP (request for proposal) will be posted on their website any day now. I’m checking it every day,” said Laurel.

Based on questions being asked of state officials, through their concessionaire website, which publically identifies who’s asking the question, San Elijo’s operation, most likely is being bid on by a large private concessionaire, California Parks Company. In 2015 the company won the concession contract for Lake Hemet campground, boat rental, and the store.

To the chagrin of mountain locals in Garner Valley, near Idyllwild, and long-time SoCal campers, the company turned a quaint little country market into a 7-Eleven-type convenience store. For the last two years, the Senior Anglers of Escondido have not planned their longtime fall camp out at Lake Hemet because of a noticeable decline in service, and lack of fish stocking, in the California Parks Company-run campground and lake.

It is assumed that California Parks Company, will bid for the Carlsbad State Beach concession.

Manganelli did receive, what she believes is accurate information from an insider, that state parks is seeking a mom-and-pop operator. However the cost cutting, thus an increased share of profit to the state by a large corporation running the camp store will be appealing to state bean counters.

Manganelli is hopeful state parks learned their lesson from a 2005 debacle, in perhaps now giving favor to longtime, local concessionaires, over a promised increase in revenue by corporate concessionaires.

San Diegan Diane Powers, and her Bazaar del Mundo, spent 30+ years turning a once a dusty 1960s tourist trap, Old Town State Park, into the most visited state park in California, only to be replaced in 2005 by corporate Delaware North. Four years later, with a 66 percent decline in revenue to the state, Delaware North left town.

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