Much of the park"s foreign plant life is supported by migrating birds like the red-tailed hawk.© Orange County Great Park
In addition to the spotlights on nature, the Orange County Great Park promises to inspire community, health and education. Head architect Ken Smith says one of the major anticipated themes of park development is the concept of physical activity and its link to personal wellness. "The people of Orange County love their cars," Smith says, and with the overabundance of food in the country overall, he sees a steep decline in physical activity. "The aim of the Great Park is to get people out of their cars and move," he says.
Adjacent to the Great Park will be 165 acres of sports facilities. Planned allotments include soccer and baseball fields, a skateboard complex, a rock-climbing wall, and a field house. Alongside it will be a Great Lawn, a wide open space for visitors to sunbathe, picnic and play Frisbee.
The park will also include an area for public gardening called Edible Acres, a feature which Smith says will encourage people to take a more critical look at their diets. "I think the one aspect that will set the Great Park apart from the other national parks in the nation is the connections," says Smith. "There is a relationship between the cars we drive, the food we eat, our own physical activity, and our global footprint," he says. "Big parks like this one have a role in showing people those connections."
Irvine is not just a hub for commerce. According to Mayor Beth Krom, it’s a melting pot, too With over 50% of its 210,000 population coming from culturally-diverse backgrounds, including a third of the population from Asian backgrounds, Krom sees the Orange County Great Park as a place where residents can learn from one another, whether during a free ride inside a bright orange air balloon or a walk along the 100-foot tree-lined Cultural Terrace.
Scheduled musical events from local and cultural artists are already planned to run through the summer. Cultural events that celebrate ethnic traditions are also planned for the space. Mia Lehrer, the second head architect for Great Park development, says "Kids will come and be able to recognize a certain plant coming from a certain country. They"ll learn about the Day of the Dead, a holiday in Spain, or hear a language and understand where it’s spoken."
A Lifetime Development
Developers are planning an extensive area for retail and socializing, as well as residential living adjacent to the Great Park. The Great Park Neighborhoods, which will occupy the remaining 60% of the former military base land, is currently being developed to deliver a small college-town feel. Shops, restaurants and even research and educational facilities like the Smithsonian are being considered for the space.
Seventy percent of the park’s layout has been approved, though Smith says "much of the earthwork is still a few years off." Within the next three to five years, Great Park Council members expect to finish at least the sports fields, while the overall project should be complete over the next 25 to 30 years. "This is clearly the project of a lifetime," Smith says. "This Great Park is the biggest, most important project I"ll ever work on."
KIMBERLY TELKER is an editorial intern at E.
CONTACTS: Orange County Great Park; Great Park Neighborhoods