Irvine Officials Weigh Veterans Memorial as Part of Proposed Botanical Garden at Great Park

Friday, February 11, 2022

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(Orange County Register)

Irvine leaders are considering dedicating about five acres of a proposed 125-acre botanical garden at the Great Park to be a veterans memorial.

In rare agreement over what should happen with the corner of the Great Park known as the ARDA site, the Irvine City Council on Feb. 8 decided to incorporate the memorial park into a study of the feasibility of developing a large botanical garden, and to immediately get started on a plan for cleaning up the blighted area.

The ARDA site at the northern edge of the 1,300-acre Great Park was one of three locations where a state-operated veterans cemetery was proposed over the years. After little progress on deciding a final location in Irvine was made, the burial place is now poised to be developed in Anaheim Hills.

Councilman Larry Agran, who long fought for the veterans cemetery to be at the ARDA site, has, for the past few months, instead championed the location as a veterans park. At the Feb. 8 Irvine City Council meeting, he laid out his idea for a memorial place that would span the 125-acre swath of land and include a botanical garden on 75 acres, along with a perimeter park, a reflection pond, and an aviation museum.

But other City Council members said they already decided at a Great Park Board meeting last month to plan the botanical garden as the site’s main feature, with a veterans park incorporated within it.

Councilwoman Tammy Kim said a place to memorialize veterans in what she believes could be a “world-class” botanical garden would be “meaningful.” She noted there would be “many, many, many different components” to the future attraction.

Agran, while ultimately voting yes on the idea for a five-acre memorial piece, called the plan “not consistent with the will of the people the city of Irvine,” who he said in 2020 pushed for a measure to zone the land for a veterans park and cemetery. He predicted “tremendous opposition” from the public over the size of the land earmarked, but said cleaning up the site was an “important component” that he is supportive of getting started.

Agran said he is “determined that we clean up that eyesore and actually demonstrate to the people the city of Irvine that we’re going to do something with the ARDA site that is constructive, that is creative and that is a credit to ourselves and the entire community.”

Category: Irvine, Great Park in Irvine, Veterans