Mailbag: Lost cultures, natural history deserve museum in Orange County

Aerial view of the Great Park on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Irvine
An aerial view of the Great Park on July 28, 2021 in Irvine. Members of the Cultural and Natural History Museum Task Force have asked Irvine to secure space for a museum that would celebrate the cultures and artifacts of the first people of Orange County as well as the area’s natural history.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Thank you for your article about the movement to secure a place in the Great Park for a cultural and natural history museum (“Task force presses Irvine for museum to honor first people of Orange County”, TimesOC, Dec. 29). I am the chairperson of the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance’s Cultural and Natural History Museum Task Force.

In the article, Irvine Mayor Khan indicated support for the idea of including such a museum in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace but cited concerns about the city’s ability to contribute financially to the museum. The task force working to secure space for the museum has not asked the city of Irvine to fund its construction. All we are asking is for the City Council to include a museum in its plans for the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

Despite having an extensive collection of locally excavated artifacts and fossils, Orange County is the only major county in Southern California without a natural history museum. A museum of cultural and natural history would provide lifelong learning experiences for residents and visitors alike. The Irvine City Council should embrace this opportunity to ensure Great Park lives up to its name by including a great museum in its master plan. To learn more about this effort, go to

Anne R. Whitehair

As a member of the Orange County Cultural and Natural History Museum Task Force, president of the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance and an Irvine resident of 40-plus years, I am writing to make it clear that we do not expect the city of Irvine to cover all the costs associated with planning and building the museum. At a minimum we are asking that the city set aside and preserve 16 acres on the Great Park Cultural Terrace for the museum complex as we fear that the remaining undeveloped acreage will be swallowed up with still more athletic and entertainment venues.

This is the least Irvine can do. The carefully planned villages and gated communities of Irvine were developed at great cost to the original people of Orange County. Precontact villages and burial grounds, some dating to 9,000 years, were destroyed to make way for progress. This is also true of all the cities in Orange County and each city should contribute. In addition to the thousands of artifacts representing thousands of years of indigenous history, millions of world-class fossils were also excavated and are stored where they are not accessible to the public.

Orange County deserves a substantial museum, such as San Diego or San Bernardino have. The cities and county will never come up with enough money, but there are potential donors in the county who could write a check for $100 million and never notice it. There have been plenty of donors for the arts. Now is the time for donors to step up for the first people of Orange County and for lifelong learning for the rest of us.

Patricia Martz

The front page of the Daily Pilot on Jan. 5 has four articles on the cover focusing on the coronavirus pandemic. Of the three smaller reports, one tells of an antivaxer/politician who died of COVID-19, another relays how coronavirus testing has spiked since the Omicron variant has surged, while the third talks about local city halls being closed. But the article that is most prominently featured at the top of the page shows a group of parents holding yet another protest against vaccine mandates for children. Where else would they have it? Huntington Beach Pier! One anonymous lady plans to run for the Newport-Mesa Unified school board and holds a sign that reads “stop the prick” with a picture of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Please stop giving these antivaxxers front-page coverage for their deadly conspiracy messages that have likely contributed to the 379,000 cases and 5,897 deaths in Orange County. We might be closer to controlling the virus if these fringe groups would stop having rallies in Huntington Beach and focus more on protecting their families by vaccination and masking. Maybe then COVID-19 would “magically” disappear!

Lisa Locke
Costa Mesa

Need to prioritize bikes, pedestrians nothing new

I am passionate about improving pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and after years of reading about high-speed crashes and countless pedestrian and cyclists deaths, I was so pleased to be greeted with a front-page above-the-fold article discussing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the Jan. 6 Daily Pilot.

The importance and day-to-day relevance of our roadways, bike lanes and sidewalks seem so obvious but are often overlooked. This infrastructure is the thread that ties our community together and should be more than just a place tailored exclusively for the convenience of vehicles racing to the nearest freeway. Our streets are public space, and the sooner we begin to treat them like a valuable community asset, the sooner we improve the quality of life for all residents.

In considering the Huntington Beach Trails to the Sea project and the survey currently being circulated by the city, it is clear there is a wide range of opinions. While I may not agree with some of my fellow residents, I feel grateful to simply be having the conversation and lucky for the opportunity to share my views with reporter Matt Szabo for his article.

Some may be surprised to learn that many projects focused on better accessibility for pedestrians and bicycles are not new. Projects like the Trails to the Sea and the newly installed protected bike lane along Delaware Street have been on the books for years. These two particular projects were identified and recommended nearly a decade ago in the 2013 H.B. Bike Infrastructure Master Plan. Additionally, the city of Huntington Beach Circulation Element contained in the 2017 General Plan update and the 2016 Parks and Recreation Master Plan outline our city’s need for and intent to expand Active Transit infrastructure throughout Huntington Beach. These documents provide excellent context and background, and I suggest every resident bemoaning the actions of our current City Council and Public Works Department read them before incorrectly claiming that our city is ignoring the voices of residents.

Huntington Beach’s path forward when it comes to our public rights-of-way is clear, and that path includes prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure throughout our community.

Steve Shepherd
Huntington Beach

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