Chairwoman: Great Park expanding

The Orange County Great Park plans to expand to 230 acres, making it a third of the size of Central Park in New York, officials said.

The upcoming 30-acre expansion will include the development of a 1-mile jogging and hiking trail known as the Thrive Trail. Kaiser Permanente will help cover the costs of the expansion, which was announced at Wednesday's State of the Great Park address.

"The Thrive Trail expands upon our commitment to providing opportunities to advance health and wellness at the park," said Great Park Corp. board Chairwoman Beth Krom, Irvine's mayor pro tem.

This year also marks the first anniversary of the Palm Court Arts Complex and the North Lawn, which hosts weekly sports clinics, athletic events, kite flying and other events, Krom said.

Palm Court has provided visitors with different ways to experience art, such as the artist-in-residence program and the Great Park Galleries, she said.

Krom also announced that the Great Park will host the 2013 Solar Decathlon, a 10-day biennial event that challenges teams of college students to design, build and operate solar-powered homes that are attractive, energy efficient and cost-effective.

"Just as world fairs and Olympic Games attract attention, investment and energy to cities around the globe, we have an amazing opportunity to showcase Orange County and the Great Park through this internationally acclaimed event," she said.

This will be the first time the Solar Decathlon will be hosted outside of Washington, D.C.

According to Krom, the Great Park won the opportunity, thanks to "broad-based community support that included many of the region's elected officials, educational institutions and clean-energy organization."

Accompanying the Solar Decathlon will be the first XPO, which Krom described as a "sort of world's fair of clean, renewable and efficient energy ideas and products."

The Great Park anticipates the return of Cirque du Soleil next year, as well as various events and musical performances, she said.

On Saturday, the Great Park will celebrate its seventh anniversary with a free festival from 3 to 9 p.m. Vintage military planes will fly over the festival to commemorate 100 years of Marine Aviation. There will also be musical performances, sport activities and art galleries. The evening will conclude with a fireworks presentation.

"We remain committed to a vision based on our highest aspirations and brought to life through innovation and activation," Krom said. "We may encounter challenges but we will not lose sight of our goals."

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