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Apodaca: Protesters did it right at Fun Zone

November 12, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. It's too bad that we often muck it up by either trying to stifle it or exploit it for cynical aims.

How refreshing then, that a group of local, wet-behind-the-ears teenagers got it so right.

I'm referring to the high school students who have organized in an attempt to preserve the Balboa Fun Zone from a redevelopment project that they believe would rob the area of its historic charm and ruin a source of cherished childhood memories ("We don't want new and shiny," Nov. 6).

In case anyone's missed it, the group's concerns center around the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum's plans to build an ocean-themed educational and entertainment center called ExplorOcean in the part of the Fun Zone where the carousel once stood. Project backers say it will revitalize the area, while keeping its well-loved ambience.

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The teenagers aren't buying it, and decided to go public with their opposition. But they didn't whine, call names, vandalize or resort to any number of ugly responses we so often see in public discourse. No, these youngsters organized a peaceful rally and petition drive, kept their message focused and inoffensive, listened to the other side, and showed respect. I can think of several adults in positions of authority who could learn a thing or two from these teens.

"The whole time I wanted to make sure it wasn't anything geared toward being negative about the museum," said Courtney Brown, the 17-year-old Corona del Mar High School junior who organized Project: Save the Fun Zone.

The idea of the ExplorOcean project "is really cool," she said. "This is not the appropriate place for it."

Let me disclose here that my 16-year-old son was among the protesters who gathered at the Fun Zone last weekend. He showed up with a couple of friends a few hours after the rally got underway, and held a sign and helped gather signatures for the group's petition.

The event was well planned and orderly. There were plenty of signs and posters to go around, and new arrivals were instructed to keep the tone friendly and positive. The organizers even thought to broaden their reach by dispatching some participants to other nearby areas on the peninsula.

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