John Wayne, who already has a namesake day in Newport Beach, may soon get a park, too

Newport Beach could honor screen legend and one-time resident John Wayne with a park.

Mayor Kevin Muldoon wants to rename an existing park after Wayne as a companion of sorts for the city's John Wayne Day, which Muldoon spearheaded last year.

The mayor suggests the grassy nook at El Modena Avenue and Cliff Drive, formally known as Ensign View Park after the nearby intermediate school.

Muldoon selected that park because a few months after the actor died in 1979, the city convened a committee to install a sculpture there honoring Wayne, "a leading and outstanding citizen of the city of Newport Beach," according to a city resolution at the time. The adjoining Newport Theatre Arts Center has a Wayne display.

The sculpture never came to pass.

Muldoon said he isn't looking to commission one right now, although he'd be open to it.

He said he received a warm reaction to John Wayne Day from people who either remember "the Duke" personally from his years in Newport Beach, or who, like Muldoon, are fans.

"He's probably one of the most iconic actors in the world," Muldoon said of the late star of films such as "True Grit" and "Rio Bravo."

Newport Beach has 67 city-run parks, a few of them named after people. The City Council guideline is to name parks after nearby streets or landmarks, although the council may waive that standard, Muldoon said.

Newport Beach celebrates John Wayne Day on May 26, the actor's birthday. Orange County, at the direction of the Board of Supervisors, recognizes the same day. The state, however, decided last year not to recognize the actor because of disparaging comments he made about African Americans in the early 1970s.

Muldoon said he hopes to hold a park ribbon-cutting in time for this spring's John Wayne Day, which will mark the 110th anniversary of Wayne's birth.

Ethan Wayne, the actor's son and chairman of the Newport Beach-based John Wayne Cancer Foundation, said the family would be thrilled to see a park in Wayne's name.

"We feel it's a very gracious gesture on the part of the city," he said.

John Wayne lived in Newport Beach from the 1960s until his death and had visited the city since the 1920s, his son said.

He is buried at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar, and his yacht, the Wild Goose, is still docked in Newport Harbor. And there is, of course, John Wayne Airport, with a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of the actor in Western costume.

Muldoon plans to discuss the park matter at the March 28 City Council meeting.

"He's just part of our American tradition," he said.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

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