A statue to commemorate the centennial of 40th U.S. President Ronald Reagan, which was tentatively slated to go into Castaways Park, will instead be erected in Bonita Canyon Sports Park.
Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff was assigned to decide the fate of the Reagan statue after a contentious debate erupted earlier this year before the project was approved by the City Council.
The statue’s exact site will be at the end of old Ford Road adjacent to MacArthur Boulevard in Bonita Canyon Sports Park.
Previously the City Council had considered placing the statue at both Newport’s new City Hall, now under construction near Fashion Island, and later at Castaways Park overlooking Upper Newport Bay. Both sites drew criticism and protests from the community.
The Bonita Canyon Park site is Councilman Keith Curry’s district. Curry began what turned into a surprisingly long and contentious process of seeking to honor former President Reagan by proposing last year that the park be renamed for Reagan.
That drew negative reaction from the community and Curry’s fellow councilmembers, so he changed course and proposed the statue, funded privately by a group of donors. That also proved controversial, and Curry had to abandon his original idea of placing the statue at the new City Hall.
When the City Council finally did approve the statue in February, it was planned for Castaways. But neighbors and others expressed concern about views and about the new statue competing with a soldiers’ memorial already in the park.
Meanwhile, local artist and sculptor Miriam Baker of Balboa Island was awarded a $50,000-dollar commission to create the statue and monument last month, beating out more than a dozen other artists from around the country.
Said Curry this week: “The (Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission) review has identified a site in my council district that I believe is an excellent location for recognizing both President Reagan and potentially other outstanding Americans. The donors I have spoken with also support this site. With the statue under way and this location selected, I now look forward to the official unveiling later this year.”