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A 24-acre faux lagoon built in the middle of the California desert will be the heart of a planned new Disney-branded community, the company announced this week.

Rancho Mirage, Calif., a town in the Coachella Valley not far from Palm Springs, will be the site of Disney’s first “Storyliving” community, the company said in a press release.

The new developments will be staffed with “Disney Cast Members” and offer Disney entertainment and activities, with the goal of creating “neighborhoods steeped in the company’s brand of special magic,” the company said. Certain neighborhoods will be designated as seniors’ residences for people over the age of 55.

Plans on the site, chosen in part because Walt Disney himself owned vacation properties in the area, include a private waterfront club and private beach access for members, as well as a paying public access to the artificial beach.

Storyliving isn’t Disney’s first attempt to translate the popularity of its theme parks and resorts into a pattern of everyday life. In the mid-1990s, the company developed Celebration, Florida, a community on the border of its Disney World resort, known for its stark, small-town American aesthetic and pre-programmed faux snow.

Celebration has since weathered challenges including the foreclosure crisis, a 2016 lawsuit filed by some residents over mold, leaks and other overdue repairs, and the high-profile trial of a man accused of murdering his wife, sons and daughters. three children and their family dog. inside their Celebration home in 2020. The town is no longer owned by Disney.

While the mayor of Rancho Mirage said the Disney development was a “fabulous fit” and the project is expected to bring the town more than $8 million a year, an environmental expert said building a giant lagoon in the middle of a parched desert landscape posed obvious problems. problems.

“Having a big lake – 24 acres is big – in a very hot desert, in a state where we don’t have a lot of extra water to go around, doesn’t make environmental sense” , said Nicola Ulibarri, who studies water management. at the University of California, Irvine.

“In California, just about every drop of water is spoken,” she said. “If you have water that sits in a lake and evaporates, it won’t provide drinking water for people, it won’t flow down into a river where it will provide habitat for fish.”

If the lagoon was built with recycled gray water, it would mitigate some of the environmental impact, she said.

In a statement, Disney said it would build the lagoon “sustainably” and “with low water consumption and using minimal additives and energy.”

The environmental impact report for the project, which was approved before Disney announced its involvement, said the development would reduce its “potential to significantly reduce groundwater supplies” by using recycled water and d other strategies, reported The Desert Sun.

The Coachella Valley is already the site of vast water-intensive developments like golf courses and leafy retirement communities, Ulibarri said.

The “Storyliving” announcement also raised questions of “fairness,” since Disney’s “Cotino” development is likely to be expensive and targeted at higher-income retirees.

“Not too far from the Coachella Valley is the Salton Sea, which was historically a big lakeside resort. Now it’s evaporating more and more every year and creating huge health problems for people. low-income communities in this region,” she said.

Evaporating dust from the Salton Sea is a major problem for local residents, and children who live near the sea have higher rates of asthma.

“You are creating this wonderful gear for this wealthy group, turning your back on the Salton Sea and all the problems it has created there,” Ulibarri said.

Twitter users have already embraced the “Storyliving” brand as inspiration for the jokes, many of which have centered around an imaginary dystopian future for the Disney community.

Other participants in the online prank workshop focused on how Disney might deal with the problems of a residential neighborhood.

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