In 1988 I (Dan Herman), took a sailing class with the City of Newport Beach Park’s Department. The class was held on a beach located at 18th street, next to a mobile home park on the Back Bay. The beach was narrow and flooded during high tides. We had to drag our boats across the hot sand and into the bay to sail. Fast forward to 2004, and it was my son Kyle, sailing CFJ’s out of BCYC, who would arrive on that same beach on Friday Fun Day. While unassuming, that beach was the best and biggest public beach in Newport Harbor. A year later, in the spring of 2005, Tom Billings, Craig Morrisett and Joe Horra representing Protect Our Parks (POP) asked R/Hdo if we could help them prepare a proposal to develop a park for the portion of the beach occupied by mobile homes. The previous year, this same group helped lead a citizen referendum in Newport Beach to overturn approvals for a hotel proposed for this site. Little did I know that this park proposal would initiate a ten-year journey. Working with POP we prepared a concept plan called “the Window to the Bay”, where the park created a 1,200 foot opening to the Bay, an idea emphasized by relocating 40 mature existing palms into a fan shape to orient views to the bay. After working with POP for over a year, the City choose that plan over five competing proposals as the blueprint for a new 10.5 acre park.

Next the City asked POP if they would hire R/Hdo to lead the public participation process for a detailed Master Plan. After many, many public meetings over 18 months, a final plan was crafted and received unanimous City Council approval in 2008. At that point, the City asked R/Hdo to be the lead consultant and assemble and manage a team to prepare a detailed design, construction documents, assist in obtaining all required approvals, and to observe the project construction. After a long and difficult approval process, involving the State Tidelands Trust, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Coastal Commission, construction started in 2013. The City separated the construction into four packages – demolition, seawall construction and dredging of the marina basin, constructing the Community/Sailing Center and park, and building the marina docks and gangways.

The official Grand Opening was held December 5th, 2015 and reminded me why designing parks is my favorite kind of project. The City Parks Department organized a fantastic event, featuring lots of ceremony, activities, and tours of all of the facilities. Nothing beats the thrill of seeing children, families, and seniors enjoying your creation. The original little scribbles of the playground lighthouse and slide, introducing a 23 slip visiting vessel marina, the big move of relocating the palms to focus views upon the bay, fighting to get buildings with two deck levels to allow dramatic views of the bay, the lighthouse towers creating icons on both the peninsula and in Newport Harbor – all coming to fruition. No more pulling your boat across the sand into the water, no more flooded beach, no more mobile homes using land the City zoned as park land in 1919. During the dedication Mayor Selich declared Marina Park as the crown jewel in the city’s park system – and we could not agree more.

Project Team:

Project Manager, Master Planning, Lead Designer, Landscape Architect: R/Hdo

Owner: City of Newport Beach

Architect: Bundy + Finkel

Marine Engineering: Moffat and Nichol

Implementation Cost: $ 20,000,000 (estimated)

Date of Completion: Summer 2015