The citizens of Newport Beach read with interest the front page article in the Orange County newspaper, the Daily Pilot, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Times, of July 10, 2011, concerning this weekend’s air show at the Orange County “Great Park.” They looked with even greater consternation at the remarks of one of the attendees who stated “Airplanes in general have been a fascination for people . . . these days you don’t see them flying around as much. And when you have a chance to see them up close and personal it’s a good reason to come out.” Where has this guy been living for the last 15 years – under a rock?
For the last 15 years, these “thousands of spectators” who “kept their eyes to the sky for the Orange County Great Park’s air show” had the opportunity to see airplanes as “up close and personal” as the rest of Newport Beach does every day. The El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, the site of the Great Park, had been a military airport for decades, even generations. The short-sighted opposition of some citizens who now flock to see airplanes “flying around” at an air show has denied Orange County and the region as a whole the economic opportunity of an adequate sized airport to supplement the postage stamp 536 acres at John Wayne Airport. Ironically, these same folks would not have seen airplanes “flying around” over their homes if the El Toro Airport had been built, as the people of Newport Beach do every day, because the military had kept 14,000 acres around El Toro free of residential property that could potentially be impacted.
In a final irony, the managers of the “Great Park” project have paid $200 million to planning firms outside Orange County, and spent 10 years on planning, so that a few people can “stop by the park a few times a year to enjoy the green space or . . . play soccer on the grass or field hockey.” In other words, the “Great Park” is not a park at all, with actual structures or services. It remains instead a mere concept that has been used to digest public dollars at an unseemly rate. If the people of Southern Orange County are so fascinated with aircraft flying around, they should have thought twice before denying Orange County what they and the rest of its citizens really need, a new, economically productive commercial airport.
Fortunately, that opportunity still exists at Ontario International Airport. Ontario is close enough to Orange County to be practical, but far enough away to deny all those onlookers fascinated with aircraft overflights a second chance to walk away from the opportunity. The rest of the citizens of Orange County can only hope that the managers of the “Great Park” project will finally devote its massive potential to something constructive, other than even more “aircraft flying around.”