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Construction on first phase of Orange County Great Park approved

November 11, 2009 |  4:57 pm

After years of planning, the Orange County Great Park will take shape — at least initially — as a far more modest spread than the facility supporters once vowed would rank among America’s great municipal parks.

The Irvine City Council voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday to spend $65.5 million over the next three to five years transforming a portion of the old El Toro Marine base into parkland.

The city will use the money to turn about 225 acres of the base into lawns, exhibition space, sports fields, farmland, citrus groves and a wildlife corridor, among other amenities.

The plan was crafted to address what’s become a common criticism: that despite spending tens of millions of dollars on a much-lauded design, the city has yet to deliver on its promises to build a showcase park in the heart of Orange County.

The council decision marks a new focus on construction over design by calling for planting thousands of trees and laying dozens of acres of sod. But there will be less parkland, fewer amenities and fewer sports fields than detailed in plans earlier this year.

-- Tony Barboza