The Great Park celebrated its five-year anniversary over the weekend, and the Orange County Register weighed in with some in-depth analysis and stinging criticism.

First, there’s this well-reported story by OC Register reporter Sean Emery. The article takes a look at what the park has so far and what is expected to be built there in the coming years. It also highlights some of the financial difficulties and criticism the park has faced.

“While other public and private institutions have been at a standstill or in retreat, our own direction is unchanged,” Irvine Councilman and Great Park Chairman Larry Agran said at his annual state of the park address this week. “Make no mistake about it: We are moving forward.”

Despite the park’s progress, however, work within much of the Great Park is running at least two to three years behind expectations; sports fields and features such as a promised man-made lake have yet to materialize, questions about spending and oversight of well-connected consultants continue to fuel a political divide among park leaders, and the full funding needed to complete the more than $1 billion project is still years away.

Then OC Register columnists Frank Mickadeit and David Whiting offer no-holds-barred accounts of the park.

Whiting details a first-hand account of his bicycle ride through the park, his observations of the dilapidated state of most of the park’s old military buildings, and finding himself kicked out by Irvine police.

Heading north on Marine Way, I pedal past larger buildings. Building HMM163 boasts: “A Tradition of Excellence.” Another building is home to a huge fading mural of knights in armor astride fierce-looking giant hornets. The semper fi Marine emblem of globe, anchor and eagle is in the background.

Cycling along the deserted road parallel to Irvine Boulevard the area starts to hint at something like a park. Large jacarandas, oaks and other trees wait patiently in boxes the size of Volkswagens.

A white SUV appears on the lonely road. The driver flags me down and I see he’s a police officer. He very nicely explains I’m in a private restricted area, something I didn’t know. It turns out I’m still on Lennar land and the Great Park is to the south. It looks post-apocalyptic.

Mickadeit blasts the park’s leaders for failing to provide a soccer field at the park. According to Mickadeit, “a soccer field is the metric by which the utility of a regional park must be judged.”

Hell, I don’t even like soccer. Nonetheless, a soccer field is the metric by which the utility of a regional park must be first judged. After the beach, is there another park use that cuts as wide through age and ethnic demographics in O.C.? Just how hard is it to put down turf?

Agran, in his opening, promised “a park that, in time, will rival in size and grandeur New York’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, San Diego’s Balboa Park, and other renowned parks …” At the moment, I’d settle for something that merely rivaled in grandeur, say, Irvine’s Northwood Community Park.

Mickadeit also takes a shot at Great Park Director Bill Kogerman for his support of the no-bid public relations contractor Forde and Mollrich.


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