MARINA PARK IN NEWPORT BEACH BUILDS A COMMUNITY SPACE FOR EVERYONE
March 1, 2016
The City of Newport Beach had a modern problem it shares with other waterfront cities: prime waterfront serving a function well below its potential. That emphatically changed on December 5, 2015, when the Newport Beach opened Marina Park, five months ahead of schedule.
Marina Park is on what is called the peninsula, the strand that forms the land barrier protecting Newport Bay. Bisected by Balboa Boulevard, the peninsula has businesses and an ocean beach across the boulevard from the park. Park visitors can walk to the ocean beach with waves and currents typical of coastal California or take their families to the placid harbor-side beach across the bay from picturesque Lido Island.
There’s something for everyone at Marina Park. The facility is home to a year-round sailing program and a 23-slip visitor marina. Its multipurpose upland facility features a towering glass-walled lighthouse and a café. The community has embraced it as a venue for weddings. A spacious “mother’s beach” is just right for a toddler’s first time in the water. The 10.5-acre park has everything for a fun day on grass, sand or water. A 6,100-square-foot Girl Scout Leadership Center is under construction funded entirely by the Girl Scouts of Orange County.
The land for Marina Park was acquired in 1919 as a public campsite. In 1965, the city leased plots to owners of mobile homes and created a trailer park. “It was a well-kept secret,” said a city manager, “with an incredible view of Newport Bay.” While it seems odd to associate upscale Newport Beach with a campsite and a trailer park, the contrast illustrates the explosive transformation of California.
In 1985, the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission recommended the site be developed as a public park. The trailers blocked sight lines to Newport Bay and city leaders wanted to open a “window to the bay.” They decided to let the leases expire and clear the land.
Park and Marina Design
City leaders were naturally concerned with sharing the waterfront with all segments of the community and hoped to introduce new people to boating. They succeeded. Marina Park is a model for other cities to emulate. “The project took thirty years, but we eventually opened that window to the bay,” said Laura Detweiler, recreational and senior services director for Newport Beach.
Detweiler was a member of the project team that developed Marina Park. A 25- year veteran of parks and recreation, she arrived during the conceptual design phase of the $35 million project.
“We had many meetings with the community to determine which amenities to include,” Detweiler said. “The outdoor fitness course was the first application of its kind in Newport Beach. We have a nautical-themed playground, two back-to-back basketball half-courts and a whole array of recreational classes. Families come to the park to picnic, climb the children’s lighthouse and play.”
Shannon Levin, management analyst in the Harbor Resources Division of the Public Works Department, managed the marina side of the project and now manages marina operations. “We had a working group of harbor users,” Levin said, “and we’ve been hearing for years that the harbor needed to be more visitor friendly, more welcoming.”
“We saw an opportunity to create a one-stop hub for cruisers with the possibility of reciprocal privileges,” Levin continued. “There is a lot to do here. It’s like a resort with the ocean, businesses, hotels and restaurants all in walking distance. We had moorings in the bay but they were not user friendly. So we designed Marina Park with a short-stay marina for visits of one to thirty days.”
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