Proponents of Irvine Veterans Cemetery Raise Concerns to State Legislators About Anaheim Site

By Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for six years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.
January 11, 2022Updated: January 12, 2022

IRVINE, Calif.—One month after a Veterans Cemetery broke ground in Anaheim, members of a group pushing to build the cemetery at Irvine’s Great Park sent a letter to state officials detailing issues with the Anaheim site.

The Veterans for the ARDA Site Cemetery sent the Jan. 6 letter to state legislators and the California Department of Veterans Affairs in favor of building a veterans cemetery on the 125-acre Great Park’s Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) site.

Along with the letter, the group sent an analysis pointing out the “severe problems” with the Gypsum Canyon site in Anaheim, which held a celebratory groundbreaking Dec. 8 with the planting of a flag pole.

Harvey Liss, a member of the Veterans for the ARDA Site Cemetery, said some of these problems include environmental issues such as landslides, fire hazards, and lack of infrastructure.

“It’s kind of crazy to claim that it can compete with the ARDA site, which has everything already. It has environmental approval, the infrastructure was right up to the doorstep, it’s ready to [be built into a cemetery],” Liss told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
The Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., on May 5, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The ARDA site is sought after due to its historical significance as the now decommissioned El Toro Marine Base—an aviation station formed during WWII—which still has its control tower, hangars, and flight line, though they’ve decayed throughout the years.

In 2018, Irvine voters approved a state-owned and operated veterans memorial park and cemetery at the ARDA site.

In May 2020, the Irvine City Council adopted a citizen-led initiative after petitioners gathered nearly 20,000 signatures that permanently zoned the ARDA site as a State Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.

Despite this, the council later reversed course, voting 4–1 in October 2021 to support building the cemetery at Anaheim’s Gypsum Canyon.

The Gypsum Canyon site has since gained support from every city council in Orange County, after the county supervisors committed $20 million for the project.

Aside from its historical significance and zoning as a cemetery, the organization’s letter pointed out that the site has already been studied extensively by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, an essential for any state veterans cemetery.

In September 2016, the site was approved by the federal Veterans Cemetery Grants Program and is listed on the Priority List for a $10 million grant, the letter states.

The letter brings to light “severe geotechnical, biological, and environmental issues” that would impact both development and ongoing maintenance of the property if it were turned into a cemetery.

Examples of these include a former sand, gravel, and asphalt plant operation on the property that has degraded soil conditions, three active landslides on the property, numerous species of plants, animals, and mammals identified in an independent conservation easement report.

“Due to habitat linkages, development of a cemetery would have significant and detrimental effects on these species. Challenges from numerous environmental groups and other parkland advocates would be expected,” the letter notes.