By Bradley Zint
7:16 PM PDT, July 31, 2014
Fairview Park's advisory committee next week will discuss adding athletic fields, a suggestion that's been hotly debated since the panel began meeting last summer.
The Wednesday meeting will focus on the park's 45-acre southeast quadrant.
Among the 19 proposals are baseball/softball facilities, soccer fields, basketball/handball courts, a roller hockey surface, a community garden, a re-created Native American village, an interpretive center, exercise stations and a dog park.
The ideas were among those first generated by the nine-member committee last summer.
If a majority of the group gives a thumbs-up to the ideas, city staff will do a preliminary analysis and bring a report back to a future meeting. If the committee gives second approvals based on the new information, the proposals would be forwarded to the Parks and Recreation Commission for further review.
Since 1988, most of the southeast quadrant has been used by the Orange County Model Engineers, a nonprofit group whose rideable train and station, repair yard and roughly five miles of track spread over about 40 acres.
The park's master plan for the quadrant includes a 110-space parking lot, a train yard with additional parking for 21 cars, a museum or multipurpose building and a small play area.
Some on the committee have said in past meetings that they would like to see athletic uses incorporated within the train layout.
Member Ron Amburgey said he can envision an entire athletic complex in the southeast quadrant that would be used by sports teams and families alike.
"We could run the train tracks along the perimeter and utilize the acres within the train tracks," he said.
Amburgey and other sports boosters contend that Costa Mesa needs more athletic fields. Fields are in hot demand, they maintain, particularly if they're lighted for night use.
Committee member Brett Eckles agreed that there is a "drastic shortage" of sports fields in Costa Mesa. He anticipated members of the youth sports community coming to the meeting to air their concerns.
Others, including Friends of Fairview Nature Park, have argued that the park should be left alone or in as "natural" a state as possible, which would mean encouraging passive activities, such as walking and bird watching, over soccer and baseball. They have routinely sent letters to that effect to the committee.
"We would rather keep the trains where they are, restore more-native habitat in and around the tracks for a better train ride experience, and have it become more of a low-impact, passive outdoor environmental educational center," said Brian Burnett of Friends of Fairview Nature Park in an email.
He added that the area could also host monthly visits from naturalists, biologists, entomologists, archaeologists and Native Americans who can "teach children and adults about how important nature is."
A spokesman for the Orange County Model Engineers, Hank Castignetti, said the club is not necessarily against having sports in the quadrant.
"That's a big misconception ... we don't want exclusive use. We don't demand exclusive use," he said.
What the club is worried about is if athletic facilities are approved, the train setup would have to move or be significantly altered, which could be prohibitively expensive.
"If they want us to move all our tracks, we don't have the money for that," Castignetti said, adding that, after recent thefts this year, the club is continuing to invest thousands in extra security and track replacement projects.
He suggested adding more natural habitat to the quadrant, which could be viewed from the trains.
Still, he added, the club doesn't know what's going to happen with all this talk.
"The fear of the unknown," Castignetti said, "kind us makes us anticipate the worst."
If You Go
What: Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, with discussions of the southeast quadrant
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave.
For more information: Visit the committee's page on the city website, http://www.costamesaca.gov.