Mann: A Great Park without Great Gardens?

Since the 2007 approval of the Great Park Master Plan, my neighbors and I have been following with great interest the progress (or lack of progress in this case) of the Orange County Great Park Botanical Gardens.

Certainly, since The City of Irvine announced and promoted the mapping and content of the Great Park in 2007 on its own website, we have been waiting and watching for signs of moving forward on the much anticipated 59 acres of the botanical gardens area in the Great Park.

Subsequently the City of Irvine has been pushing out promotional materials in an effort to drum up community support for the unprecedented taxpayer expenses associated with our new park. There has been a corresponding and simultaneous natural expectation for the installation of the botanical gardens.

Inexplicably, there has been no movement on the gardens since 2007.  Community members are experiencing an overwhelming sense of betrayal that these 59 acres of previously designated botanical gardens have quite simply disappeared.

How can we have a Great Park without Great Gardens?

$250M spent so far. Not a sign of the gardens.

Consultants. Studies. More consultants. More studies. Designers. No bid contractor fees. Massive amounts of PR materials. Travel junkets. Expensive meals. More consultants. And still no botanical gardens.

Soccer fields and stadiums. Sports fields. Huge ice rink practice facility for the Ducks hockey team. Tennis courts. Volleyball, baseball and softball areas; in essence a sports complex. And still no botanical gardens.

While we acknowledge the efforts of council members to audit and provide clarity to us – the taxpaying public – on the history of this project’s wasteful spending and gross mismanagement of public funds – our money – still . . . no botanical gardens.

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 City of Irvine was conceived on December 28, 1971 as a world-class master planned community. Our current city council has an opportunity to create a long-lasting legacy that will impact generations to come.   There’s no doubt citizens will continue to track and monitor the long delayed implementation of our promised gardens.  But the jury is still out on whether the council will take the needed leadership steps to finally establish Orange County’s Great Park Botanical Gardens.

Jayne Mann is a resident of Irvine.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

  • jtrevino79

    Something beautiful and FREE for the sake of improving Irvine? No way. It’s got to be inaccessible unless people pay for it and drive to it. So golf course, water park, ice rink? Yes. We probably won’t even need to leave our cars to get from one to the other!

  • Jack Milliken

    The Great Park has dissipated into The Mediocre Park. The developers are sure busy building million dollar houses but the park isn’t much more than a few soccer fields and that stupid balloon

    • Ltpar

      After 10 years of Larry Agran wasting 200 million dollars, parceled out to his political allies for planning & publicity, nothing ever got built. At least with the new Council, some progress is being made. Athletic fields, which you can never have too many of, are coming on line. An Amphitheater will be under construction shortly and an ice rink has already been approved. A veterans Cemetery is still up in the air as to location but should be decided in June. As I understand it, the Cultural Terrace is still under review and study and a garden might be appropriate there. Still, none of the items mentioned are revenue generators of the magnitude to provide operating funds for the Great Park. Someone will have to pay those costs. Should it be the Irvine taxpayers? I don’t think so. Progress is being made which is more than happened under Larry Agraan.

  • M.e. Fuelleman

    Lack of a REAL garden, not green belts or soccer fields, is a crime. It was the one thing about the great park that had appeal across cultures and generations. Fifty-nine acres is pretty small, all things considered, but we have a chance to do this only once and that time is now!

  • LFOldTimer

    Ms. Mann – beautiful gardens for the pleasure of the residents is not a money maker for the developers or the politicians. So it won’t happen. Why create gardens when you could put homes, a business park, banks or gas stations on that plot of land?

    Those who have been to Europe or Asia have seen the magnificent parks created for the enjoyment of the people. Great free entertainment every weekend.

    Not here. If it can’t make money it’s a nuisance.

    Maybe they could build a military weapons manufacturing plant at the Great Park. I mean look at all the jobs it would create as long as the country continues on it’s course of regime change and nation building!!!! 🙂

    • Ltpar

      Guess you would like to be paying the high taxes those culturally inclined Europeans pay for their Social and Cultural Programs. Let’s face it bub, you would be the first in line to be sniveling and whining if your taxes were increased to pay for a Botanical Garden. Add to that the shortage of water in California and the problem expands. I will agree, the Irvine City Council has been very short sighted in bringing in real revenue generators to pay for operations and maintenance at the Great Park. As such, the question arises, who will pay for those costs? Lastly, there are parts of the Great Park still under analysis and planning. If people feel strongly about a Great Garden, they need to let their elected representatives know.

      • LFOldTimer

        If you add in all the taxes and fees we pay to the Feds, the State, the County and the Municipalities our taxes are right up there with most of the Europeans, believe it or not. California is one of the highest, if not THE highest, taxed state in the union, if you haven’t done your research.

        I would rather pay a little extra and have all the beauty and fun FREE entertainment on the weekends (like the Euros and Asians have, rather than just see another home development, bank, fast food joint of gas station to fill up an empty space.

        Short sighted??? That’s a HUGE understatement. They WASTED hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars!!! Get a friggin’ clue, Par!!!!

        They told us the Great Park was going to mimic Central Park in NYC. Ever been to Central Park before? It’s truly a Park for the RESIDENTS – NOT for the developers or the corporations or other businesses.

        You’re way off target on this one too, Par.

        • Ltpar

          I have never been off target when is deals with corruption and mismanagement of both the City and Great Park under former Council Members, Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang. That is who was responsible for the millions of dollars in gravy ladled out to former Agran political consultants and his other supporters. No one has criticized and condemned their actions louder that I. The current Council was elected on a pledge to get something done at the Park. Considering a lack of money, they have done a pretty fair job of getting something rolling, although not to the magnitude of Larry Agran’s misguided vision. Yes, I have been to Central Park and without reservation I can tell you that because of cost, such a venture was never feasible for Orange County. Bottom line is, if you want to go to a NY type of park, head on down to Balboa Park in San Diego. In the end, the Park in Irvine may not be “Great” in the comparison of Central or Balboa Park, but when built out it will be a nice place to visit and for kids to participate in their sports events. Wondering if you are even a resident of Irvine, because if you were, you would know the City doesn’t build any bad parks.

          • LFOldTimer

            You and I are different.

            I don’t want a commercialized park. I want a park for the residents. I get the impression that you want it paved over in concrete and turned into a cash cow. I don’t. And I think that after ALL the money that’s been wasted up to this point BY THE GOVERNMENT that the citizens and taxpayers DESERVE to be made whole – by giving us a park meant for RECREATION, ENTERTAINMENT AND ENJOYMENT as opposed to just another business venture.

            Can’t any of you gain pleasure from aesthetics? Or does it have to be paved in Wall Street gold to be beautiful?

            And YES – they told us it was going to be Orange County’s Central Park. Don’t you remember?

          • Ltpar

            Yes, I remember quite well what King Larry promised us while he was passing on 200 million dollars plus to his political cronies. Get in touch with reality, Agran lied to you, he lied to me and he lied to all those other people who were expecting something that was never financially possible.

            Yes, you and I are very different. I am an ultra Conservative and proud of it. Not sure what you are?. I support smaller less expensive government and you want more amenities (Recreation, Entertainment & Enjoyment) without paying for them. Granted, the new City Council has wisely moved from a fully taxpayer funded Park to a Public-Private Sector Partnership with Five Points Developers. While that is productive, the Council has not been visionary enough to figure how they are going to pay for Park Operations and Maintenance, without dipping into City General Funds. While I talk about bringing commercial ventures, I refer to things where revenue could be generated without compromising the culture of the Park. Certainly, an Ice Rink Training Facility for a professional hockey team is not one which will generate such revenue. Neither is the golf course proposed by Five Points, which the City does not need. The permanent Amphitheater, if built by the City and the Water Park, on the other hand might be such revenue generators. Moral of the story Old Timer is, there are no free lunches out there. Somebody always pays and more often than not, it is the taxpayer.

          • LFOldTimer

            I don’t categorize myself of any particular ideology. I just use my common sense. I decipher between right and wrong, just and unjust, good and evil. That might seem old fashioned to you.

            Makes no difference if the Republican or Democrat promised us a Great Park. The council majority did. That means the government did. And now the government should stand by it’s word.

            Not asking for a free lunch. Just expecting the lunch that was promised to us. It’s time for them to dig deep in their pockets and come up with the money. And if that means cutting back on cops and their fat salaries and pensions – so be it.

            All Great Parks have beautiful gardens. The park in Irvine will be known as the concrete park. And we’ll be the laughing stock of the world.

      • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

        Shortage of water is a great scam.
        Chicago Mercantile Exchange, weather derivatives.
        We have been manipulated.
        It will be dealt with, in due time. Crime.

        • LFOldTimer

          “Add to that the shortage of water in California and the problem expands.”

          Par’s talking a water shortage when the Sierras got more than 200 inches of snow over the winter!!! Many Ca ski resorts now have seasonal snowfall totals topping 500 inches. lol. Wait until the runoff starts. Massive flooding. And Par is worried about water for a garden at the Great Park!!! Hilarious!!!

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Totally so.
      I protest.
      Great gardens was the great appeal when this first started.

      • LFOldTimer

        Welcome back, BeeBee.

        I thought you underwent a metamorphosis and were transformed into Verified. 🙂

        What good is a big park without gardens? It’s like a giant birthday celebration with no cake. Incredibly stupid. I guess the folks in Irvine see beauty in homes, gas stations, banks, fast food joints and convenience stores. If it doesn’t have $$$$$$$ dollar signs $$$$$$ on it what good is it?

        I wonder if they’ll charge admission to get into the park? That’s next on the agenda. Just wait.