Archives: Seasons 1-5

Photo Essay: O.C. Great Park More Than 10 Years Later

In 2002 the residents of Orange County, Calif., passed a measure to kill plans for the development of the El Toro Airport and instead voted to turn a huge swath of land from the decommissioned Air Force base into a central park and nature preserve. From that, the O.C. Great Park was born, billed by the Irvine City Council as the country's next great urban park -- one that will rival New York's Central Park. Fast forward 10 years and only 200 of the 1300 acres have been developed. Roughly $200 million has been spent, and many are now asking, "Where has all the money gone?" Has the O.C. Great Park turned into a great disappointment?

The above map details the dream of the O.C. Great Park. To date only a handful of attractions have opened: The Great Balloon Ride, The Carousel, the Palm Court Arts Complex, a farm and food lab, and the north lawn. A farmer's market is held every Sunday, along with an antique market on the first Sunday of each month.

The Great Park Balloon ride was the first major attraction to open. It carries 25 to 30 passengers 400 feet into the air, affording a bird's eyes view of the park. While it's been popular with visitors, it's also a source of controversy as many wonder why after 10 years all you primarily see 'is this big orange balloon.'

While filming at the park, the crew and I went for a ride on the Great Balloon. Although it remains tethered to the ground by a beefy, steel cable, it is also susceptible to wind gusts and we had a rather bumpy and exciting landing.

The view from above shows the old runway from the Air Force base. This is also a point of contention. Park goers that we spoke to say they are 'disappointed' more of the park has yet to be developed after so many years and so many dollars.

Park officials insist development funds have not been mismanaged and that building a park of this scale takes time and resources. The view from the balloon ride also shows the development of the new south lawn sports complex, which is currently under construction.

Watch our full report on "SoCal Connected" tonight at 5:30 and 10.


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