The City of Pacific Grove will vote Wednesday night on whether to invest roughly $70,000 into the maintenance and revival of a seaside park that draws thousands of visitors every year to its fuschia, fluorescent blooms.
Standing on a coastal bluff near Lovers Point, writer and photographer David Laws describes the man this area is named after, Perkins Park.
“He was a cantankerous guy. Often it takes that kind of person to pull something like this off,” Laws said.
Laws has been researching the life of Hayes Perkins and how he came to plant the ‘Pacific Grove Magic Carpet.’
In his youth, Perkins was an avid explorer. He completed more than 100 voyages across the world. He also kept a diary of his adventures for nearly 50 years.
“He worked in the Congo in the mines. He worked in Borneo cutting trees. He was on some of the very early surveys up in Alaska. He has a description of rowing 900 miles down the Yukon River in 12 days,” said Laws.
Perkins settled in Pacific Grove in the late 1930s. That was when the bluff was covered in poison oak.
“He saw kids playing in this stuff getting poison oak burns and decided to clear it out, said Laws.
Perkins instead planted hundreds of fuschia-colored plants that he had found in South Africa on one of his voyages.
It took him about 14 years to plant the milelong stretch of flowers that bloom from April to August. He watered the flowers himself, filling 75 buckets twice a day.
The plants are a non-native succulent with hairy stems and vibrant pinkish-purple flowers that grow about six inches high.
They’re part of the ice plant family. But Laws says it shouldn’t be confused with the invasive ice plant seen throughout much of California.
“This is a much smaller, less invasive style. And it's a plant which is very low water usage. It's very good at holding eroding cliffs and things together,” Laws said.
Laws says the upkeep of the ‘Pacific Grove Magic Carpet’ has been inconsistent over the years. He says weeds have been creeping in amongst the blooms.
“Most people would come by and say ‘that's nice’. But when you look really closely, it really was looking pretty shabby compared to what it was 10 or 20 years before. But it is, it's coming back slowly,” said Laws.
About a mile away from Perkins Park is Pacific Grove City Hall. That's where City Manager Ben Harvey works.
“It is a source of community pride,” Harvey said.
He says when people think of Pacific Grove they think of the ‘Magic Carpet’.
“It is beautiful. It is a draw. And we do see people that that return annually to walk through the blooms, to take pictures,” said Harvey.
When you Google images of Pacific Grove, the mile-long strip of fluorescent fuchsia is prominently displayed.
But Harvey does admit the city hasn’t always been able to keep Perkins Park at a level that it should be maintained at.
“Due to drought and to a degree diminishing city resources,” Harvey said.
He hopes that’s about to change.
“Eventually it occurred to me, is that beyond dedicating a maintenance employee to that area to work on it solely and beyond the ongoing community cleanups, we really needed a plan,” said Harvey.
Earlier this year, the Pacific Grove City Council authorized the development of a landscape plan. The city has selected a firm they want to take on the project.
“I see it as an economic driver. But beyond that, I really see it as something that is part of our identity,” said Harvey.
David Laws will be giving some talks on the life of Hayes Perkins next year:
- Carmel Foundation, Wednesday Program, April 8, 2020
- Cal State University Monterey Bay, Osher Lifetime Learning Institute Program, Spring 2020 (Date TBA)