Orange County Great Park

Among the several parks in the Irvine, California area, Orange County Great Park is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The Great Park is an open space dedicated to athletics, farming, and the creative arts. The former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is being used for a purpose other than aviation. About 28% of the land that was originally the air base is now a park in Orange County. Voters in Orange County, California gave the project their stamp of approval in 2002, allocating $1.1 billion for it. Beyond the basics like restrooms and picnic tables, there are also an increasing number of unique and interesting things to do and see in this area.

The Great Park Balloon, the park’s main feature, lifts visitors 400 feet into the air for a breathtaking panorama of the grounds below. Moreover, the Palm Court Art Complex is located right next to the Great Park Balloon, and it houses the Great Park Gallery as well as a 10,000 square foot event hall that was formerly a military hangar.

In addition to the airport hangar containing the preserved aircraft, the Orange County Great Park also features a carousel, a favorite among children. A variety of sports facilities, art exhibitions, and farm-to-table fare from The Farm + Food Lab can all be found in the Great Park. New to Orange County Great Park, the Great Ice Park is a year-round ice skating and event venue.

Ken Smith, who is also an architect, led a team of landscape architects in designing Great Park. Smith’s proposal was selected from hundreds of entries in a global park design competition. The park is administered by the non-profit Orange County Great Park Corporation, which is overseen by current Irvine City Council members.

From 1943 to 1999, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro was located in the Great Park. According to a 1993 report by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro should be shut down and its functions moved to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Consequently, the base’s future use after its closure became a focal point in Orange County politics throughout the late 1990s, resulting from a protracted political and public relations war. A commercial airport, residences, and the Great Park were all proposed in the earliest plans. Voters in Orange County approved Measure W in 2001, paving the way for a park, nature preserve, and mixed-use development to be built on the site of the former air base. The measure passed, and the area is now known as the Great Park.

At first, the Great Park was supposed to have a road system somewhat similar to that of Newport Center, with five roads radiating out from a central loop road that would divide the park into individual blocks. To honor its past, the blueprint was later altered to incorporate a sizable chunk of runway and take after the original base’s blueprint. The park intends to restore Agua Chinon Creek, which has been diverted underground since the base was constructed in the 1940s.

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