Sounding Off: Irvine Bowl a public park site

Regarding the article "Festival's façade redesign in the works," [Nov. 19, Coastline Pilot] I hope new signage will include "Irvine Bowl Park." The Festival of Arts grounds uses the city of Laguna Beach's Irvine Bowl Park, and the park should be properly identified.

While most people do not realize that it actually is a public park, ironically, the Irvine Bowl Park is the largest municipal park in the city of Laguna Beach. If you stop by on most any day, you will likely find the area where exhibitors stalls used during the summer are deserted and unused.

From "History Of Laguna Canyon" written by Laguna Beach Historical Society President Emeritus Belinda Blacketer in May 2001:

"The site of the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters was to be a community park, which was chosen in 1938. In April 1940, the citizen's of Laguna Beach passed a 'Park, Music and Advertising Tax' of 10 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation to purchase and develop the Irvine property.

"The area that is now the festival grounds was shown on a map of the proposed park site as the 'play area,' the canyon where the police firing range is now was to be used for 'rustic trails' and the Amphitheater the Festival wanted to build was to use a very small portion of the park land.

"The original deed stated that the city 'shall use said real property for the following purposes only, and for no others, to wit: for the construction, enlargement, improvement, maintenance and operation of the outdoor amphitheater now situated thereon and known as Irvine Bowl, for the production and holding of public concerts, theatrical performances, festivals, exhibits and any all forms of public entertainment and recreation."

"In 1947, after James Irvine's death, the park was donated to the city of Laguna Beach by the Irvine family. The community planned a community center, a children's playground, and community kitchen along with many other civic uses. These facilities do not exist today. In the '40s, '50s and '60s the park was used for the community Easter Egg Hunt, carnivals, the Orange County Goat Show, the Scottish Festival, and various other community group events. The park served as the only real community park for the city of Laguna Beach for many years. In the 1950s a restaurant was built on the former playground terrace."

Gene Felder lives in Laguna Beach.

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