The Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee approved a recommendation for a pair of informational signs, marked in yellow, for the park's northwestern quadrant Wednesday night. (City of Costa Mesa / February 7, 2014)

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The Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee has approved a recommendation for a pair of informational kiosks to be added in the 208-acre park's northwestern quadrant.

The kiosks, one to be at the entrance of the Wetlands and Riparian Habitat that opened nearly one year ago, would likely contain information about the area's birds and plants, according to city staff.

Six committee members favored the kiosks. Vice Chairman Steve Smith dissented, and members Dennis Popp and Terry Cummings were absent.

The kiosks may not provide paper pamphlets, but they could be modernized so that cell phone users can scan them to be connected to relevant information, city staff said.

The plan for kiosks, which city staff consider to be an idea consistent with the park's approved master plan, will eventually go to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Chairman Richard Mehren said he felt the kiosks will be essential to let park users know what they're looking at.

"If it's just greenery, they may not know how important the area is," he said.

Gilbert Collins, who served years ago on an earlier version of the advisory committee, said there has to be some sort of plan to maintain the displays.

The work could be done by a volunteer organization, he said.

"Most kiosks that I've seen are real duds," Collins said. "No one takes care of them after a while."

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Rejected plans

The committee soundly rejected a proposal for a new community garden in the northwest quadrant.

The garden was infeasible because it would have been too far from the parking lot — about 4,100 feet, residents and committee members said.

The nearly half-acre garden with 20 to 25 parcels was planned for an undeveloped edge of the park, near the Santa Ana River, a flood control channel and some residences in the Lower Birds neighborhood.

"Anybody who walks the area knows this is a terrible place" for a garden, said resident Harold Weitzberg.

Six committee members voted against the idea; Ron Amburgey voted in favor of it. He added later that he sees the need for a community garden — Costa Mesa only has two — and that adding another is probably appropriate elsewhere in the park.

The committee was split on adding a bird-watching platform outside the Wetlands and Riparian Habitat. Anna Vrska, David Stiller, Smith and Mehren voted against it. Brett Eckles, Lee Ramos and Amburgey voted in favor.

The circular platform would have contained six kiosks of its own. It could have offered "a good location for the viewing of the riparian forest and birds that forage in the area," according to city staff.

Resident Cindy Black said she felt the platform may have ended up being underutilized or not used for nature-viewing purposes.

"People will just use it to drink beer and get in trouble," she said.

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'Cart before the horse'

Though the idea was not specifically addressed Wednesday, the ongoing debate over adding sports fields to Fairview Park surfaced during the meeting.

While some users say the park should remain passive, natural and undeveloped, others have contended that its acreage should contain active uses, such as soccer fields or baseball diamonds, for a community where they are in short supply and high demand.

Earlier this week, the City Council gave permission for city staff to start hiring a consultant who will update the city's Open Space Master Plan of Parks and Recreation. The plan, which acts as a blueprint for park facilities and programs, was last updated in 2003.

Mehren, the committee's chairman, said now that the city is working on an assessment that will show what the community wants for places like Fairview Park, the committee's goals seem unclear.

"We did put the cart before the horse," he said. "And I really don't know where we're going from here … I'm not comfortable with going ahead when we don't have that needs assessment."

Mehren said he wants to consult with city officials on the committee's mission, adding, "I don't know if we can continue with this process."

Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz said in response that the committee, whose members were appointed by the council, isn't giving any final approvals for changes to Fairview Park.

The committee will continue making its recommendations, he said, and the ultimate decisions will be made by either the Parks and Recreation Commission or City Council, which, by that time, should have the benefit of the data garnered from the updated Open Space Master Plan of Parks and Recreation.

The committee's job is nonetheless "a timely effort," Munoz said. "This is more of a planning process" before further analysis is conducted by others.