Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Morro Bay hilltop deserves to be saved

The view of Cerrito Peak from Main and Olive streets in Morro Bay.
The view of Cerrito Peak from Main and Olive streets in Morro Bay. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

It has come to my attention and to my great concern that there are controversial plans to build a private residence on the historic Eagle Rock in Morro Bay.

After decades of losing so many of Morro Bay’s natural emblems to the ravages of loosely supervised development, Eagle Rock exceptionally remains one of the few most naturally beautiful sites still recognizable in the city of Morro Bay. This profoundly striking rocky prominence remains, as it has for centuries, one of the most distinctive images of Morro Bay today, proven by the archaeological traces of the Chumash culture and its consistent presence in the many historic images of the city. Eagle Rock, with its crown of eucalyptus trees, can be commonly found centering both the patina-tinted, historic black and white photographs of long ago as well as the many oil and pastel artist renderings of past and present.

Clearly, local residents and tourists alike attach, and have always attached, Eagle Rock to the identity of the city and its heritage.

As most probably a site the Chumash considered sacred, not only is it an area of prehistoric importance, but it is also home to a unique and spectacular collection of wildlife living in one of our oldest groves of eucalyptus left in the city, providing a perspective with further reaching consequences than yet another hastily approved building permit.

These factors alone assure Eagle Rock represents those irreplaceable aspects of a local culture which we, the population, use as reference points, as beacons to orient our past, a context from which we can understand the ancient traditions of our forbears, trace the roots of our local, singular culture and, yes, nourish our self-identify as Morro Bay residents.

Though momentarily a citizen of the world, I have always dreamed about returning home to one of the most special and impressively unique, naturally beautiful areas of the planet, where I spent the first 17 years of my life growing up — to the area I have always considered heimat (a German word meaning home or homeland).

As we “locals” travel to other areas and boast about this unique village, describing with pride this most incredible area of the world where the drama of the Pacific confronting the Central Coast of California creates a beauty which rivals any other place imaginable, we carry Morro Bay, the geographical place and the “idea,” to the world.

It would be nothing less than a tragedy should Morro Bay lose the intrinsic character which nature has given it. Morro Bay, the “idea,” would no longer have integrity.

For those of us who feel Morro Bay is more than simply a destination, or property site — for those of us who feel Morro Bay represents a part of unparalleled history upon which the culture of California was built — I urge you to do all you can to protect Eagle Rock from the banality of nonstrategic development which brings yet another nonessential single-family dwelling complete with two-car parking into Morro Bay’s center. Such a project is indeed banal and superficial because the construction of any private structure with its relative commonality, when built upon a site as pregnant with importance for everyone such as Eagle Rock, comes at the cost of an irreplaceable symbol of Morro Bay’s local heritage.

May I urge you to consider these costs and prevent the loss of a part of Morro Bay which cannot be replaced.

Kent Nagano is the music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Bavarian State Opera. He grew up in Morro Bay and has also served as principal conductor of the German Symphony Orchestra, Berlin, and music director of the Los Angeles Opera. He has won three Grammy Awards.