Council Votes to Rename Park After John Wayne

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Ensign View Park, now named John Wayne Park in Newport Beach.
Ensign View Park, now named John Wayne Park in Newport Beach.

A Newport Beach park will soon don the Duke’s name.

City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to change the name of Ensign View Park to John Wayne Park. Council members Brad Avery and Diane Dixon dissented.

Mayor Kevin Muldoon recently suggested renaming the park, located adjacent to Newport Theater Arts Center on Cliff Drive, after the famed former resident.

“For the sake of expediency, for the sake of the righteous cause that the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is… dedicated to addressing, namely cancer research, and because of the large impact John Wayne has on this community, I decided to take this endeavor up,” Muldoon said.

All the council members praised Wayne, but were split on whether or not to name a park after the actor or whether the Council should be the first and only board to have input.

Typically, an item concerning a city park would go through the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission first and they would make a recommendation to Council on the matter. Several council members and residents argued this point as reason to table the issue until a future meeting.

Councilman Will O’Neill pointed out that one of the reasons he got behind starting up a subcommittee to review city policies was because he was frustrated with the number of times council policies get waived, he explained.

“If we have a council policy we ought to be following that council policy,” O’Neill said.

It should go through PB&R, he concluded, even though if it did and it returned to Council he would likely vote in favor of renaming the park after Wayne, it still needs to go through the proper process.

John Wayne aboard the Wild Goose
John Wayne aboard the Wild Goose,
— File photo

Councilman Brad Avery said he admired the intent to honor Wayne, but felt the city policy regarding not naming parks after people was a good policy, although he noted that there are a few exceptions that were named before the policy was enacted in 2003.

There are a lot of admirable current and past residents, he added, too many to all name parks after.

Avery suggested the item head to Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission for review and recommendation first.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon also wanted to see it go through PB&R.

“We have Commissions for that purpose,” Dixon noted.

The few residents that spoke on the item agreed.

“I came specifically tonight to stand up for process and policy,” longtime resident Nancy Skinner said.

There should be input from the neighbors, who have strong feelings on this issue, and this move bypasses them, she added. It may end up in the same spot and it may not, but it would give the nearby residents a chance to be heard, Skinner said.

Wayne is well-loved in Newport Beach, no question about that, but PB&R and residents should be able to provide input and voice their opinions on the topic, Skinner commented.

City watchdog Jim Mosher agreed that the Council should hear a recommendation from PB&R before taking any action that involves a city park. He also mentioned the policy about not naming parks after people, which the Council waived in order to approve the item on Tuesday.

“If we’re in the business of renaming things, why not just go whole-hog… Why not rename this entire complex here the Ronald Reagan Civic Center?” he joked.

Muldoon cited the work of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and its fundraising event on May 26 as his reasons for pushing the item straight through to the Council and in order to “cut through  a lot of the red tape.”

“I understand why some would like to punt, but I say we just run it into the end zone right now,” Muldoon said.

Muldoon felt confident that when – or if – it were to return to Council after being reviewed by PB&R it would get approved anyway.

That may be true, others argued, but the Commission should get the opportunity to provide input.

Earlier in the evening, Councilman Jeff Herdman moved to table the item regarding renaming Balboa Island Park after the late resident and community activist, Ralph Rodheim.

An aerial view of Ensign View Park, which the Newport Beach City Council voted on Tuesday to rename John Wayne Park, as seen from a Google satellite image.
An aerial view of Ensign View Park, which the Newport Beach City Council voted on Tuesday to rename John Wayne Park, as seen from a Google satellite image.
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