The Project Of The Century

Much of the preliminary work is “shovel ready” and could be under construction soon as the approved phase moves ahead. “Considering the dire state of the construction industry, development of the Great Park provides the economic stimulus where it is most needed,” the ERA study states.

The Landscape Architecture Plan

Ecological well-being is at the top of the Great Park list of sustainable goals. Transforming the sterile expanse of the El Toro air base into a living, robust landscape is fundamental to the vision of the park. Its ecological vitality will increase the biodiversity value of adjacent preserves, from the mountains to the north to the coastal preserves near Laguna Beach, to the south. Natural waterways will be reestablished, and historic habitats will be restored, bringing back the county’s natural heritage. This will help maintain a healthy, natural environment in the region.

A key component of the park’s ecological character is the Wildlife Corridor–a native habitat restoration reserved for wildlife movement, which will be off-limits to park visitors. Another component is the Agua Chinon, a stream trapped in a concrete pipe, which will also be “daylighted.” Trails will enable the public to experience a mosaic of habitats for relaxation and environmental understanding. The stream corridor will change through the seasons as water-flows surge and ebb.

Vegetation in the park will emphasize native species as a botanical backbone with an overlay of species that are xeric, noninvasive, low-maintenance and well-suited to the climate and conditions. Additionally, culturally significant plantings will include orchards, agriculture and lawns. The park vegetation areas will consist of 61-percent native plantings, and, overall, 75 percent will be “California friendly.”

Among the palm trees and other plantings that will populate the park is a variety of critical habitats, such as vernal pools that support amphibians, specialized plants and other species that require standing water in the spring. Hundreds of acres of wildflower meadows, grasslands, oak and walnut woodlands, coastal sage scrub and varied streamside habitats will support birds, butterflies and animals that have been missing from the site.

Sustainable Plans

Because of the importance of the park to the region, the city is seeking economic-stimulus funding, particularly in the areas of energy, water and transportation. And with a sustainable plan in mind, officials are well on their way to proving just how committed they are to incorporate recycling, remediation and redevelopment into the plan:

· Energy–The park plans to install more than one megawatt of renewable-energy generation on-site. Site lighting will have small photovoltaic cells attached to lamp posts to charge small batteries that will power the lights at night. More than one acre of photovoltaics will cover roofs in the park, and will generate more than 400 kW at peak output; 15 solar collectors containing mirror dishes with a diameter of more than 30 feet will generate more than 500 kW at peak output.

· Recycling–There are more than 600 acres of hard pavement in the site to be removed, and 120 buildings to be dismantled and recycled. All pavements will be recycled at a center located adjacent to the park. Gravel and cobblestones will be reused for infiltration media and roadbed support. Large slabs of concrete dubbed “El Toro stone” will be stacked for retaining walls and waterfalls, as well as laid down for trail steps. Sustainable construction practices will include balancing cut-and-fill to conserve energy and reduce waste-removal from the site; preserving on-site structures by salvaging, reusing or recycling existing materials, such as timber, concrete and asphalt; and specifying local materials to reduce the distance that materials must be trucked.

· Water conservation and quality–The park will have an array of natural treatment systems implemented in a three-stage treatment process. Basically, all areas developed with buildings, roads and other facilities will integrate best-management practices, such as porous pavement, structural-infiltration devices and litter- and debris-entrapment vaults. Monitoring and maintenance will be facilitated by locating the natural-treatment systems next to roads, trails and access ways. The park’s irrigation system is designed to maintain optimum plant health while conserving and protecting water resources and the environment. The water supply for the park is recycled and provided by the Irvine Ranch Water District. No potable water is used to provide supplemental water for the landscape.

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