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!

Welcome 2018!

Irvine 2017 by the Numbers:

  • No. 1 Major American City in Fiscal Strength.
  • No. 1 FBI’s Safest American City. Lowest rate of violent crime among cities with a population of 250,000 or more (12th consecutive year that City of Irvine has earned the Safest City accolade).
  • No. 2 Safest Big City, based on categories that go beyond violent crime rates, including motor vehicle safety.
  • No. 3 Most Prosperous City.
  • No. 3 Happiest Residents.
  • No. 6 Least Stressed American City
  • No. 8 Best Public Parks.
  • No. 8 Best City to Raise a Family, based on crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment.
  • No. 9 Healthiest Lifestyles.
  • No. 15 Best Places to Buy a Forever Home.
  • Listed as one of 20 Western Dream Towns.
Great Park Progress:
  • Opened new 12,000-seat live music FivePoint Amphitheatre in in the Great Park. The inaugural concert in October 2017 was headlined by Irvine’s own “Young the Giant.”
  • Groundbreaking for new ice skating facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
  • Opened 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 largest of its kind in Orange County – larger than Disneyland and Disney California Adventure combined.
  • Great Park Sports Complex presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
  • Great Park Championship Stadium becomes home of Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team and 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 comprised of 34 teams across the United States.
  • Reached agreement with Wild Rivers for a new 30-acre water park in the Great Park.
Traffic Progress:
  • City Council did not approve a single new entitlement for housing or offices in 2017.
  • Reinstated Irvine Transportation/Traffic Commission (with my appointee, Ken Montgomery, as Chair).
  • Created and filled new City of Irvine staff position of Director of Transportation.
  • Curtailed traffic in and out of Concordia University.
  • Approved $19 million plan to reduce traffic congestion throughout Irvine.
  • Approved plan to widen University between MacArthur and Campus, adding a lane in each direction and upgrading traffic signals.
  • Working with CalTrans to upgrade and improve timing on 40 traffic signals near freeway ramps.
  • Working on pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Jamboree at Michelson.
  • Defeated proposed 1,960-unit “Travel Land” apartment complex at the 5 and Sand Canyon, based on negative impact on traffic congestion.
Environmental Progress:
  • Reinstated the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Commission (with me as Chair and my appointee, Krishna Hammond, as Vice-Chair).
  • Organic Landscape Leadership Award from Pepperdine Center for Sustainability for Irvine’s exclusive use of organic non-toxic materials in its gardens, parks, and grounds-keeping.
  • 2017 Sustainable Government of the Year for recycling and waste reduction from Sustain OC.
  • 2017 Eco-Award from U.S. Green Building Council.
  • Continued working with Non-Toxic Irvine to ensure that all City of Irvine pest pressure is maintained organically, and that our public gardens and fields are not only beautiful, they are safe.
  • Worked with Irvine-based Wyland Foundation to provide education in water and ocean conservation.
 Civic, Educational, and Cultural Progress:
  • Expanded Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial.
  • Submitted bid for Amazon HQ2.
  • Opening of the new Charlie and Ling Zhang Musical Arts and Education Center, including Orange County Music and Dance, a non-profit school in Irvine, and headquarters for Arts OC and the Pacific Symphony.
  • All of Irvine’s high schools rated in the top 10% of the nation’s high schools.
  • Cadence Park School (K-8) opens in Great Park Neighborhoods.
  • Dedicated 125 acres of land from the former El Toro Marine Base for Orange County’s first veterans’ cemetery and held dedication ceremony attended by hundreds of veterans.
  • Opening of the Quail Hill Community Center.
  • UC Irvine breaks record with 116,192 undergraduate applications.
  • 16th Annual Global Village Festival.
  • 8th Annual Korean Festival.
  • 4th Annual Diwali Festival.
  • 4th Annual Persian New Year Nowruz Festival.
  • 3rd Annual Winter Wonderland Festival.
  • 12th Annual Orange County Fire Open House.
  • 3rd Annual Irvine Police Open House.
  • 1st Annual “Days of Remembrance” Proclamation, remembering the Holocaust and calling on all of us to be “vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny.”
  • Deployed firefighters to Houston, saving thousands from flooding.
  • Deployed firefighters throughout California to fight worst fire season in California history.
  • Instituted first-ever Irvine Police Mounted Unit.
  • 12th Annual Super Pet Adoption at Irvine Animal Care Center.
  • 12th Annual Home for the Holidays Pet Adoption at Irvine Animal Center.
  • 4th Annual Spooktacular Fun Days at Great Park.
And some personal accomplishments:
  • “Best Politician” by the Orange County Weekly.
  •  “Taxpayer Watchdog Award” by Orange County Auditor-Controller.
  • “100 Most Influential” by Orange County Register.
  •  “Hero of Children Award”  by Child Abuse Prevention Network.
  • “Active Transportation Change Maker Award” by Alliance for a Healthy OC

Serving the residents of Irvine this year as a member of the Irvine City Council has been a great joy and privilege.

Together we can do even more in 2018!

Michael, Max, our entire team, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
The best is yet to come!
 
Melissa

Alegria Fresh, Orange County Produce and Filtrexx Corporation launch the ‘Farm of the Future’ at the Great Park in Irvine

By Christopher Simmons

Reposted, with permission, from California Newswire.

IRVINE, Calif. /California Newswire/ — California-based Alegria Fresh, in collaboration with Orange County Produce, LLC and Filtrexx Corporation, today announced the launch of the “Farm of the Future” hydroponic and organic farming demonstration center at the Great Park in Irvine. The demonstration center, which features high-performance urban hydroponic vertical and organic farming methods, just completed a new organic food production farm using GardenSoxx.

GardenSoxx is an innovative organic food production system that can be used over cement or other man-made surfaces. The “Soxx” are made of eight inch diameter polypropylene mesh and can be filled with any compost or planting mix.

“Nutrient-rich, fresh food is critical to maintaining health and energy. Our goal is to show people how to grow superior produce within the urban environment while substantially reducing the impact of food production upon our planet,” said Erik Cutter, Managing Director of Alegria Fresh. “Systems employing GardenSoxx and hydroponic vertical farming processes are making this possible. 21st Century farmland may consist of man-made surfaces or unused spaces where food cannot be grown safely, so these highly efficient systems just may represent the farms of the future.”

hydroponics.02

Photo by Geoff Fox

The new Alegria Soxx farm consists of 13 rows of five Soxx each, for a total of 7,800 linear feet of growing space within an 8,500 square foot area (approximately one fifth of an acre). GardenSoxx drain easily and provide aeration and cooling to keep the root zone stable. The rich organic soil is supported within a controlled environment allowing greater nutrient density to be achieved and weed growth is reduced which decreases labor. Production yields are expected to be nearly double that of conventional farming. Water usage is estimated to be 70 percent less and fertilizer use 50 percent less. Other cost savings such as being weed-free are expected to increase the return on investment of the new urban microfarm.

Thirteen different specialty crops including several cultivars of beets, onions, red and green romaine, radicchio, red and green cabbage, chard, celery and kale are being grown to demonstrate the versatility of the system and prove that urban microfarms can be profitable with no subsidies required. The controlled growing environment assures superior nutrient-dense produce, high yields and faster growth rates. Alegria Soxx Farms create jobs and can be employed in densely populated urban environments to provide access to superior, locally grown food.

“The importance of preparing for a future with less water available cannot be overstated,” said A.G. Kawamura, prior CA Secretary of Agriculture and co-founder of Orange County Produce, LLC. “We are committed to continuing the legacy of farming in Orange County. By repurposing land and leveraging existing technology to increase efficiencies, we can provide practical solutions to supplement a worldwide food issue.”

For more information about the GardenSoxx or hydroponic vertical farming products offered at Alegria Farm, please visit http://www.alegriafarms.com/ .

About Alegria Fresh:

Alegria Fresh designed and manages Alegria Farms, showcasing urban hydroponic vertical and organic GardenSoxx farm systems. The hydroponic vertical farm employs over 120 hydroponic vertical towers growing over 8,000 plants in less than 1/20th acre. The organic Soxx farm consists of 13 rows of five GardenSoxx each, for a total of 7,800 linear feet of growing space within an 8,500 square foot area (approximately one fifth of an acre).

Alegria Farm is part of the interactive urban agricultural exhibit at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. Alegria Farm is Orange County’s first hydroponic vertical farm and organic GardenSoxx farm and the first West Coast showcase for vertical hydroponic systems which uses no soil, 80 percent less water, requires 70 percent less land and 50 percent less fertilizer than traditional farming. This high performance growing system produces clean, natural food faster and allows plants to grow bigger and stronger, making plants naturally more pest resistant.

Alegria Farm produces an exotic variety of leafy greens, medicinal herbs and heirloom vegetables. Hydroponic farming is soilless and utilizes coconut fiber instead of organic soil, and produces strong plants that are nutrient-rich. For more information on Alegria Fresh or to schedule a tour of the farm, please visit www.AlegriaFresh.com or follow on Facebook and Twitter. Alegria Fresh is the high-performance urban agriculture division of EnviroIngenuity, a company dedicated to reducing waste.

Visit Alegria Fresh at http://www.AlegriaFresh.com/ or Alegria Farm athttp://www.AlegriaFarms.com/ and EnviroIngenuity athttp://www.EnviroIngenuity.com/ .

About Orange County Produce, LLC:

One of the oldest remaining farm companies in southern California, Orange County Produce, LLC, has farmed within the rural urban environment of OC for over half a century.

The company is managed by A.G. and Matthew Kawamura, third generation growers and shippers of fresh produce. A.G. Kawamura is the former California Secretary of Agriculture where he served from 2003 to 2010 and is actively involved in developing policy in the areas of education, hunger and nutrition. He serves as the co-chair of Solutions From the Land, a United Nations Foundation project that is developing a sustainable roadmap for 21st century agricultural systems.

Orange County Produce, LLC, engages in year-round production and marketing of fruits and vegetables. Dedicated team members work creatively to resolve hunger and nutrition problems within the local community and educate the public about the art and science of urban farming and the challenges facing our food system. Orange County Produce, LLC, is currently engaged in building an exciting, interactive urban agricultural exhibit at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

Visit Orange County Produce at http://www.OCProduce.com/ .

About Filtrexx Corporation:

Filtrexx Corporation is a proven green technology firm that designs and manufactures products used in more than 100 applications. The Filtrexx GardenSoxx system uses locally made, annually renewable, bio-based, recycled compost and other organic materials, contained by the company’s Made in USA mesh containment system to create patented products used around the world. The all-natural Filtrexx system is currently in use in nine countries, including every US state and province in Canada. For more info, visithttp://www.GardenSoxx.com/ .

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