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Orange County’s Great Park Master Plan Honored With National Planning Award


The American Planning Association (APA) has selected the Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan to receive the National Excellence Award for Innovation in Regional Planning. This award recognizes innovative plans, programs, tools, or related efforts that promote and strengthen support for regional planning.

The California park’s plan was designed in such a way to knit together the communities of Southern California while restoring the region’s natural heritage. The 1, 347-acre park, being built on the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, will serve Orange County’s 3.2 million residents offering numerous recreational opportunities and vast open spaces.

"The Comprehensive Master Plan for the Orange County Great Park outlines an astonishing vision for a new kind of park, " Carol Rhea, AICP, 2009 National Planning Awards Jury Chair. "The park plan is innovative, bringing a number of different uses and elements to the region as well as becoming a very visible example of sustainability."

Principles of sustainable development will guide all aspects of park design. This includes habitat restoration, renewable energy generation, water quality management and promotion of non-polluting transportation methods. In order to ensure the park can sustain itself and produce real environmental benefits, sustainability efforts will be tracked in five fully outlined categories: energy, water, materials, nature and people.

A variety of park programs, from educational opportunities to public festivals, are designed to celebrate the diverse populations that make up Orange County. Park features, such as the agricultural fields, the contemplative memorial, and the Cultural Terrace and its museums, will link the park to communities far beyond park borders. The agricultural plantings and educational programs will honor the people who have lived and worked on Orange County’s land. And the El Toro military airbase will be commemorated with historic museum exhibits and a memorial.

"The plan for the Great Park achieves a new precedent for the transformation of community and landscape at a regional scale, " said Mark Johnson, president of Civitas, a firm specializing in landscape architecture and urban design. "This plan does not just focus on the redevelopment of El Toro, it rebuilds important landscapes, connects communities and establishes a new threshold of what suburban communities need to achieve."

Plans call for new ideas for social and environmental sustainability to be tested at the park, with Orange County residents becoming key participants in imagining ways to create a healthier and more sustainable future. These ideas and technologies will be generated in the park, but they are designed to inspire people to make changes in their own lives, thus creating a profound impact far beyond the park’s boundaries.

Project lead designer Ken Smith notes, "The Great Park sets new standards for 21st Century metropolitan parks in terms of history, place making, and environmental stewardship."

The award for the Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan will be presented at a special awards luncheon at APA’s National Planning Conference in Minneapolis on April 28, 2009. The Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan will also be featured in an upcoming issue of Planning magazine, APA’s flagship publication.

For a list of all of the APA 2009 National Planning Excellence, Achievement, and Leadership Award recipients, visit APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

The American Planning Association and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people’s lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit its website at

Steve Larsen of OC Great Park, +1-949-724-7414,; 
Roberta Rewers of APA, +1-312-786-6395,

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