Newport won't have to imagine a park much longer

At Superior Avenue and West Coast Highway, on a plateau rising from the intersection in Newport Beach, stands what seems to be a forgotten piece of land.

It is far from such. Over the past several decades, the 13.7-acre property has been imagined as the site for homes, the path for the West Coast Highway and now a new city park.

"This is the first time we can say, without a doubt, this is going to happen," said City Manager Dave Kiff, kicking off a celebration of the park's groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon.

Kiff spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people, including past and present members of the City Council and city staff, many of whom had been involved in the effort.

Known as Sunset Ridge Park, the land will be home to a new playground, picnic area, butterfly garden and walkways. Baseball and soccer league players will also be able to practice on new overlapping fields there.

"I'm just happy it didn't take any longer than this," said Don Webb, dressed in festive Christmas attire. He has served as the city's public works director and as mayor.

The city purchased the land from the state for $5 million in 2006. Over the years that followed, the proposed park underwent design concept approval, environmental impact review and two coastal commission hearings.

A $5.2 million contract for construction, with a $520,000 contingency, would be awarded to Environmental Construction, Inc., of Woodland Hills, by the City Council at that night's meeting.

"And here we are today, breaking ground to start construction in January," Mayor Keith Curry said in a brief speech.

Some noted that the west side of Newport Beach had been lacking such accommodations. Council member Tony Petros heralded the change as the sign of a renaissance in West Newport.

"It is a great day," said Steve Rosansky, a past councilman who championed the project during his time in office before joining others in reaching for hard hats and gold-colored shovels on hand for the occasion. "Let's break some ground!"

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