After more than a decade of developer schemes, political battles, and ballot measures, the work of transforming the Great Park’s 125-acre “ARDA” site on the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) began in earnest on Tuesday, May 23rd. At the sound of an air horn at 10:50am, demolition of abandoned military base buildings got underway at the future site of the Veterans Memorial Park & Gardens.
The moment was a culmination for Councilmember Larry Agran and many of the 250 people who gathered on the site for the groundbreaking ceremony. Present were veterans of not only our nation’s military, but also of the political battles and initiative campaigns that first overturned a County plan to put an international airport at the former base and then successfully locked-in the Veterans Memorial Park & Gardens as part of the Great Park.
Councilmember Mike Carroll — who also serves as Chair of the Great Park Board of Directors — paid tribute to the “intense grassroots campaign to block the creation of an international airport” and called the day “an important milestone” in the development of a truly Great Park “driven entirely by the community.”
When finished, Carroll noted, the Great Park will encompass some 1,300 acres — twice the size of New York’s Central Park and larger than Balboa Park in San Diego and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
Councilmember Agran — who serves as Vice Chair of the Great Park Board — also addressed the crowd, thanking the “scores of citizens who circulated petitions, qualified ballot initiatives, voted, and attended numerous City Council meetings in support of the project. They were the real foot soldiers of our democracy, determined to see this Veterans Memorial Park become a reality.”
And with that, the air horn sounded and equipment sprang into action to tear down a dilapidated sheet-metal building housing air compressors once used in base operations. It was the first day’s work — with thousands more to come — in creating the nation’s next great metropolitan park.
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