Fulfilling the Great Park Promise: The Cultural Terrace Needs Botanical Gardens and a Natural History Museum

I was delighted to speak this weekend to the Cultural and Natural History Museum and Botanical Gardens Workshop in Irvine.  This is what our City and our Great Park need now to fulfill the Great Park promise.

While I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park – from a new 12,000-seat live music amphitheatre to the new ice skating facility to a new 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park – the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace.

Supporters of a botanical garden at the 233-acre Cultural Terrace of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine hold signs and flowers during the Irvine City Council meeting Oct. 24, 2017. (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Cultural Terrace is a 223-acre portion of Orange County Great Park, envisioned as including a variety of culturally oriented amenities, such as gardens, art galleries, and museums.

I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.

Every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park.

I agree with the Great Park Garden Coalition that “We need places where children can experience nature and explore, where all can find refuge from the ever-increasing urban density and traffic, where people of all ages and abilities can experience beautiful outdoor spaces. All great urban parks have great garden spaces: Golden Gate Park, Central Park, Balboa Park.”

I also agree with what Joyce Mann wrote in the Voice of OC: “Gardens are an inclusive, a-political opportunity to bring community together for generations. They are a public benefit that becomes a lasting legacy. Besides being beautiful to look at, education is fundamental to the mission of botanical gardens. Through them, we have an opportunity to teach students of all ages about developing environmental awareness and to learn about plant science, gardening and the ecology of our local forests, rivers and wetlands. Botanical gardens become a living plant museum that will inform visitors about the importance and often-irreplaceable value of plants to the wellbeing of humans and to the earth’s fragile ecosystems. Isn’t that the very definition of a legacy?”

The Great Park Botanical Gardens would also benefit the monarch butterfly, a beautiful species that is undergoing significant challenges and stress in our area. In the past decade, the monarch butterfly population has plummeted due to habitat loss and poisonous insecticides. The Great Park Botanic Gardens would be the ideal site to become a future Monarch Waystation. Monarch Waystations are essentially road stops on the Monarchs’ migration path which are stocked with their favorite foods and places to rest. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have such a road stop for monarch butterflies right in our own backyard?

The Great Park should also include a world-class natural history museum.

Orange County is the only county in Southern California that does not have a Natural History Museum.

The County has millions of fossils, and thousands of artifacts, in storage and they are not available to the public.  This rich history of fossils and artifacts, perhaps one of the most important fossil-bearing areas in North America, if not the world, needs to be curated and displayed.  Additionally, the stories and history of the Juaneno/Acjachemen and Gabrielino/Tongva — our County’s indigenous people — needs to be told!

In fact, Orange County is already home to a fabulous collection of fossils and artifacts in the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, now located in several warehouses in Santa Ana.

The rocks of Orange County contain the fossilized remains of plants and animals from every major time period since the Jurassic – over 180 million years of prehistory! At this point, only a small fraction of the collection has been inventoried – about 20,000 specimens out of an estimated 3,000,000 or more from over 1,000 localities. Notable collections include: Eocene terrestrial mammals; late Oligocene-early Miocene terrestrial mammals; and Miocene-Pliocene marine mammals.

The Cooper Center’s archaeological holdings range in age from at least 12,000 years ago until historic times, including materials from all areas and environmental zones throughout the County including the coast, major and minor rivers, and foothill zones. Sites from these various areas include, but are not limited to, villages, fishing, milling activities associated with acorn and hard seed processing, and stone tool manufacture. Some of the artifact types recovered from these sites include cogstones, metates and manos, mortars and pestles, shell beads, hammerstones, projectile points, scrapers, incised stone and pottery sherds. Historical artifacts from the last century include glass bottles and toys. The artifacts held by the Cooper Center are the most extensive collection of Orange County history and prehistory anywhere and they provide archaeologists with a comprehensive view of what life was like in Orange County.

Unfortunately, this fabulous collection is not now open to the public. Although a county ordinance and federal preservation laws require that fossils, mostly uncovered by construction, be saved and kept in the county they were found, for the “benefit and inspiration of the public”.  our county’s rich store of fossils and artifacts cannot now be displayed, and are warehoused out of sight of the public. This collection ought to be open to all in a magnificent museum – a new Orange County Natural History Museum in the Great Park.

You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organizations that are working toward a Great Park botanical garden and a natural history museum:

Great Park Garden Coalition
Website: http://redryder200.com/GreatGardensCoalition/
Facebook: Click here.

California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA)
Website: http://www.ccrpa.com/
Facebook: Click here.

You can also help by signing this petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.

Thanks!

The Veterans Cemetery: What Should Irvine Do Now?

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B. The issues now are what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide, and what should the Irvine City Council do in response to the voters’ decision.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014, and that the City Council should begin immediately to build a veterans cemetery at that location.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Sign used by Measure B opponents warning of thousands more cars on Irvine roads if Measure B passed.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending $40 – $80 million dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park.

In a survey of Irvine voters I conducted from my blog and through email, the great majority said that they voted against Measure B because they did not want more development and traffic.

Even more significantly, 64% said that Irvine should not spend $40 to $80 million dollars for a veterans cemetery, compared to only 13.5% in favor.

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

In a new and promising twist to the veterans cemetery saga, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has now agreed to have its staff study and advise whether county-owned open space outside Irvine might be a feasible location for an Orange County veterans cemetery. The approximately 234-acre site is in the city of Anaheim, near the 91 and 241, adjacent to Gypsum Canyon.

This site would provide a larger veterans cemetery for Orange County veterans, at no cost to Irvine, and be free from the divisive politics that has characterized the veterans cemetery debate in Irvine.

In fact, many of the veterans who initiated the fight for a veterans cemetery now favor this site, because, as Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran Nick Berardino has said, it appears that “veterans are removed from the political equation, and are now heading in a practical, reasonable direction to give all the brave men and women a final resting place.”

If the Irvine City Council approves Jeff Lalloway’s motion to spend $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery, it will deplete the Great Park budget for at least a decade.

As the Irvine City News noted, “It sounds noble when [Jeff] Lalloway, [Larry] Agran and their followers hold up the service of our veterans. But when you understand that the veterans still can’t get what they were promised without taking away the gardens, the museums, the music, the culture and the future of the Great Park, it puts Lalloway’s political power move in perspective.”

I have been a strong and consistent supporter of a veterans cemetery in Irvine.  But I have also been a strong supporter of fulfilling the promises that the City made to residents when it created the Great Park, and I am not in favor of giving up on those promises.

I believe the Great Park should have great gardens and a great museum, as well as other features for the enjoyment of all residents, and I do not believe that the City can afford to spend $40 to $80 million on a cemetery and continue with these other projects.

What do you think?  

Do you favor spending $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery or should that money go to create other features for the Great Park?

The City Council will decide on Tues, July whether to approve Lalloway’s motion or whether some other course is more sensible and also responsive to the will of the voters and the needs of the community.

As always, the public is invited to attend and speak on these issues at the City Council meeting.

I also urge interested residents to contact the Mayor and the City Council by email and tell us in writing what you think we ought to do.

Here is how to contact the Mayor and the City Council:

Irvine City Council
949-724-6233 or irvinecitycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Mayor Wagner: donaldwagner@cityofirvine.org
Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea: christinashea@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Jeff Lalloway: jeffreylalloway@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Lynn Schott: lynnschott@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Melissa Fox: melissafox@cityofirvine.org

Thank you.

Join Me to Watch the World Cup Final Live at the Championship Soccer Stadium in the Great Park!

Irvine residents are invited to attend a free viewing of the World Cup Final of France versus Croatia streaming live from Moscow on the Great Park Championship Soccer Stadium’s giant scoreboard beginning at 7 a.m. on Sunday, July 15, courtesy of our Orange County Soccer Club!

No tickets or RSVP are needed.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Free World Cup Final broadcast live on the Championship Soccer Stadium video board.
  • Watch the broadcast from the pitch, and bring blankets for seating (no chairs, tents or umbrellas will be allowed on the pitch).
  • Watch the broadcast from stadium seating sections 1-3 and 11-13.
  • Pre-kickoff entertainment with Orange County SC player and technical staff interviews as well as game analysis.
  • Half-time raffles for Orange County SC prizes.
  • Interactive Fan Zone: Lawn games, face painting, inflatables , sponsor  booths and exhibits and more!
  • Orange County SC player autograph and photo opportunities.
  • Orange County SC merchandise will be available for purchase.
  • Breakfast foods and beverages options will be available for purchase.
  • Free parking at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.

Schedule:

7:00 a.m. Gates open
7:30 a.m. Pre-kickoff entertainment
8:00 a.m. Kickoff

See you there!

About the Orange County Soccer Club:

Orange County Soccer Club is Orange County’s only professional soccer team and an official affiliate partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS).

Orange County SC is a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the fastest growing Division II professional soccer league in the world, composed of 34 teams across the United States.

The team plays their home games at the Orange County Great Park’s Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine.

Nestled right in the heart of the Great Park, the Championship Soccer Stadium has a capacity of over 5,000 for Orange County SC matches.

For more information, visit their website at orangecountysoccer.com.

Join Me at the Irish Fair and Music Fest June 9th and 10th at the Great Park in Irvine!

Céad míle fáilte!

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes!

Last March, I was named a 2018 Irish Honoree by the City of Los Angeles. The award came as a result of my help in bringing the annual Irish Fair and Music Festival to the Great Park in Irvine.

The Irish Fair and Music Festival will be held on June 9 and 10, 2018, at the Great Park in Irvine. It is dedicated to preserving and promoting Irish and Irish-American culture in the Southern California area by presenting Irish music, dance, theatre, language, sports and all other aspects of the Irish heritage.

Now in its 43rd year, the Irish Fair has become a landmark for Irish and Irish American culture and family entertainment. Over 30,000 people attend the event annually.

It has been described as the happiest and most fun filled event in all of Southern California!

Among the many artists appearing at the Festival at the Great Park this year are The Fenians , The Humble Hooligans, Craic in the Stone , Sligo RagsCillian’s Bridge, Rory Makem and Dónal Clancy .

The Irish Fair also features Irish Step Dancing, Irish, Scottish and British import shops and arts & craft vendors.

The entrance for the Irish Fair and Music Fest is 6950 Marine Way, Irvine, California 92618.

You can find more information, and tickets, online at BIG Irish Fair and Music Festival!

See you there!

Slán go fóill

Join Me for Irvine’s Persian New Year (Nowruz) Celebration!

In Irvine, we love to celebrate our many heritages.  Irvine is home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

One of our biggest cultural celebrations is the annual Persian New Year (Nowruz) Festival, taking place this year on Sunday, March 25, 2018, from 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm at Irvine’s Bill Barber Community Park, sponsored by the Iranian-American Community Group Orange County.

Enjoy Live Performances of Persian Music and Dancing, Persian Food, Tea & Cookies, Backgammon, and Children Activities!

What: Fifth Annual Nowruz (Persian New Year) Festival

When: Sunday, March 25, 2018, 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Where: Bill Barber Community Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza
Irvine, CA. 92606

Cost: Free!

You can learn more about the Nowruz Festival here.

نوروز مبارک

Nowruz Mubarak!

See you there!

“I don’t know anyone who has had Persian food and didn’t like it. Seriously.” ― Rick Steves, Guidebook Author and TV host.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Celebrating a Special St. Patrick’s Day!

This Saturday, March 17, is very special St. Patrick’s Day for me!

Last week,  I was named a 2018 Irish Honoree by the City of Los Angeles.  The award came as a result of my help in bringing the annual Irish Fair and Music Festival to the Great Park in Irvine.

I am tremendously honored to be named an Irish Honoree.  Irish Americans have contributed enormously to our nation, and I am proud to help share and celebrate Irish culture in our Great Park.

The Irish Fair and Music Festival will be held on June 9 and 10, 2018, at the Great Park in Irvine.   It is dedicated to preserving and promoting Irish and  Irish-American culture in the Southern California area by presenting Irish music, dance, theatre, language, sports and all other aspects of the Irish heritage.

Now in its 43rd year, the Irish Fair has become a landmark for Irish and Irish American culture and family entertainment. Over 30,000 people attend the event annually. It has been described as the happiest and most fun filled event in all of Southern California.

Among the many artists appearing at the Festival at the Great Park this year are The Fenians,  The Humble Hooligans,   Craic in the Stone,  Sligo Rags,  Cillian’s Bridge,  Rory Makem, and Dónal Clancy.

The Irish Fair also features Irish Step Dancing, Irish, Scottish and British import shops and arts & craft vendors.

You can find more information, and tickets, online at BIG Irish Fair and Music Festival.

See you there!

Slán go fóill

Stay Cool!

Temperatures will reach triple digits this week in some parts of Orange County, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke for those who are sensitive to heat.

Stay hydrated, limit outdoor activities, and NEVER leave kids or pets in a parked car!

ALL City of Irvine facilities are designated cooling centers.  Click here for a list of facilities and open hours!

Here are some recommended precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of water; don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay out of the sun if possible, and when in the sun wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim. Use sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous activities if you are outside or in buildings that aren’t air-conditioned. If you are working outdoors, take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.
  • Never leave children, older people or pets unattended in closed vehicles.
  • Ensure outdoor pets have access to shade and water.
  • Check on those who are at high risk to make sure they are staying cool – including seniors who live alone, people with heart or lung disease, and young children.
  • Stay cool indoors – if your home is not air-conditioned, visit public facilities such as shopping malls and libraries to stay cool.

Prolonged exposure to excessive temperatures may cause serious medical conditions and can even be fatal. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and dizziness. Warning signs of heat stroke may include an extremely high body temperature; unconsciousness; confusion; hot and dry skin (no sweating); a rapid, strong pulse; and a throbbing headache. If symptoms of heat stroke occur, immediately call for medical assistance. Assist those with signs of heat stroke to a shady area and begin cooling their body with water.

Let’s be cool — and make sure we all survive the heat!