Share this story

Guest Letter

Rick Reiff

Editor at Large

Orange County Business Journal

Remembering to remember the past

Guest letter Rick Reiff rock with plaque

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Rick Reiff

Plague honoring Thomas A. Cummings is mostly hidden and obscure these days under a growing lemonade berry bush

(The following is an open letter to the OC Parks and Laguna Beach County Water District.)

I assume Laguna Beach never intended Thomas A. Cummings to be forgotten. Not when he was honored with an impressive boulder-mounted bronze plaque at the trailhead of the Laguna Beach Wilderness Park on October 8, 2000.

Cummings was long gone by then, but he’d been a big deal back in the day. In 1927, he became newly incorporated Laguna Beach’s first mayor, a job he held on and off through 1942. He was a founding director of the water district, serving it from 1925 until 1944, most of the time as president, and earning, as the plaque attests, the sobriquet “Father of the District.” He’s the most prominent official in photos of the 1926 Coast Highway dedication, bespectacled and in a three-piece suit, standing between Hollywood royalty Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. 

Guest letter Rick Reiff old group

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Thomas Cummings (with glasses) stands between Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (in white)

All of which is to say, it’s a shame that the thousands of hikers who pass his plaque each year have no idea he even existed. That’s because since that 2000 park dedication, a lemonade berry bush has grown up next to the boulder, almost completely blocking it from view. You have to stray from the walking path to discover the plaque with its stunning coastal backdrop. 

Now, far be it from me to suggest the district cut down a lovely shrub, although if I had to choose between it and old Cummings’ memory…well, never mind.

But here’s an idea. To be honest, not my idea, but the brainchild of my neighbor, fellow walker and another former Laguna mayor, Jane Egly, who joins me in this bipartisan request:

Move the boulder! Surely the water and/or park district has the wherewithal to relocate the rock a mere few feet to an unencumbered roadside spot. Placing the plaque a little closer to the nearby “dos and don’ts” signposts might even encourage more visitors to read them.

History respected, nature preserved, a trailhead enhanced. A win-win-win. I’m guessing Mr. Cummings would approve. 

Rick Reiff is Editor at Large of the Orange County Business Journal and lives in north Laguna Beach.


Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: with news releases, letters, etc.


Email: for questions about advertising


*The content and ads in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the publisher.

© 2023 2S Publishing, LLC - All Rights Reserved.