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Community Commentary:

Great Park would be great opportunity for revenue

March 25, 2009|By Larry Agran

President Obama’s visit to Southern California was an excellent opportunity for city leaders to personally plead their case for funding of community and recreational facilities, which desperately need a portion of the stimulus dollars.

Unfortunately, city parks are not getting the attention they deserve. Although monies for national park improvements have been earmarked for the National Park Service, there is no money specifically designated for our metropolitan parks.

While tall skyscrapers, massive retail centers and new residential communities may garner more public attention and publicity, the fact is, parks matter.

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Obama launched his administration with the boldest economic recovery program seen in America since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

But where is the funding for our metropolitan parks? In Orange County, we are beginning development of the Orange County Great Park. The Great Park is the centerpiece of the redevelopment of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. To fully understand the potential economic impacts the Great Park holds for Orange County and Southern California, Economic Research Associates (ERA) conducted an analysis of the public and private development in and around the park in the next 12 years.

The study reports that over the next 12 months alone, planning, construction and other private and public activity associated with building the Great Park could result in hundreds of jobs this summer, and thousands of jobs in the near-term, increasing to 31,532 jobs in 2020. Much of the preliminary work is “shovel ready.”

These projects include a “solar farm” providing renewable energy to the park and surrounding communities, a natural water treatment system with regional benefits to water quality, and a multimodal transit system using alternative fuel vehicles within the park and connecting to Amtrak and Metrolink service at the nearby Irvine Transportation Center.

The total dollar value of development and related activity projected is $23.9 billion with the average annual contribution to the regional GRP at $2.2 billion. Sales, property and income tax generated within the park and adjacent residential and commercial areas could amount to $123.4 million in 2020.

I am confident that many of the Great Park’s “green projects” will qualify for federal stimulus dollars in the areas of transit, transportation, renewable energy production and water quality improvement. National, state and local government officials nation- wide should take a close look at metropolitan parks as a logical place to invest federal stimulus dollars.


LARRY AGRAN is the mayor pro tem of Irvine and serves as chair of the Orange County Great Park Corporation.

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