The Big Orange Balloon

THE BIG ORANGE BALLOON….So what did you do on your birthday, Kevin? Answer: not that much, really, but Marian and I did head out to the wilds of Irvine and take a balloon ride. Sort of a faux balloon ride really: it’s a big orange balloon that’s tethered to the ground by a cable. Every few minutes it’s unreeled about 400 feet into the air and then reeled back in. Best part: it’s free!

And why does Orange County have a giant orange balloon ride? The answer is in the picture below that was taken from the balloon. See that long stretch of asphalt that looks like a runway? It is a runway, formerly part of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. When the Navy announced in 1993 that MCAS would be decommissioned, local residents rushed into action to fight the powers-that-be who wanted to turn it into a commercial airport. Their chosen alternative was to turn the land into a “Great Park,” and eventually that’s what happened. After a decade of initiatives, court fights, and grassroots campaigning, the airport idea was finally struck a death blow. In the end, a development company bought the land and handed over 1,347 acres for development of a huge park. The balloon is there as a sort of placeholder until the Great Park is open for business.

So there you have it. More about the Great Park here. Balloon info here. Note to OC residents: the balloon is free through the rest of 2007, and the place was practically empty when we went on Friday afternoon. Just drive up, get a boarding pass, and walk on.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation