The Orange County Great Park was an idea that was supposed to bring the tattered remains of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine to greatness.
That was a decade ago.
Promises were made, but with the decline in the economy in the past ten years, it’s doubtful the residents of Irvine will see the Great Park go any further than a few acres of grass and a large balloon.
Since its inception, approximately $203 million dollars have been put into a project that has yet to see a fraction of the proposed design. The 1,347-acre-park was intended to be a huge attraction, drawing in crowds to the city of Irvine. Only 200 acres of that space has been used so far for the park. In the last ten years, only about 15 percent of the space for the park has been used.
So where are all these hundreds of millions of dollars going?
According to an article by the Los Angeles Times, a majority of the finances went into plans, designing the park and paying consultants.
Only about a fifth of the $203 million budget has actually gone into construction. How can so much money go into planning and consulting and leave so little behind for the rest of the park?
The supposed “first great metropolitan park of the 21st century” has fallen quite limp, and these continued hard times might not yield any foreseeable results. What was the intended plan for the Irvine spectacle ten years ago?
In the previously mentioned article, the Great Park was supposed to have built museums, sports fields, cultural centers, botanical gardens and possibly even a university by now.
Instead, the Great Park contains a farmer’s market, a helium balloon, a carousel, an art complex and a rock. All of which do not sound very “metropolitan.” The OC Great Park was intended to rival San Diego’s Balboa Park and even New York’s Central Park.
While the aspirations and goals are admirable, action and funding are the key to getting a project of this magnitude to move forward.
The plans took a devastating hit as the state’s balloon deficit was slashed, taking away $1.4 billion in property tax funds. On its last legs, the park leases its extra space to farmers.
What stands currently in Irvine is a shadow of a thought of the great idea that once was a decade ago. With what little developed space the park has seen, visitors do still frequent the space.
But with a hot-air balloon as a main attraction and a few other minor novelties, will the money be enough to sustain such a vast property?
It’s unlikely that the OC Great Park will ever see half of what was originally proposed in the next few years. Economically, the state is walking a thin line and the budget is unlikely to find a surplus for such an endeavor.
With what’s left in the Great Park’s budget, the complex is making a last-ditch attempt in adding a new variety of structures within 30 acres of unused space. Among these plans are basketball courts, soccer fields, ponds, gardens and a permanent visitors center, according to the LA Times article.
Officials are saying that we may not even see change for generations to come. Is it about time the dream of a “great metropolitan park” be put aside in hopes of focusing on something more tangible and efficient towards the city of Irvine; how much more time needs be wasted for such a project?
Whether or not we will ever see any progress on this Great Park, pun intended, is up in the air.