Flagging A Problem

Yellow flags mark where biologists this week mapped a vernal pool in Fairview Park. The flags are staked within two trails that some local environmentalists contend have encroached onto the sensitive - and federally protected - vernal pool habitat. (SCOTT SMELTZER / Daily Pilot / August 21, 2013)

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  • Vernal Pool 5 Photo: Vernal Pool 5
  • Marking the site Photo: Marking the site
  • Topics
  • Biology
  • Endangered Species
  • Conservation

As of Wednesday afternoon, a few of the markers — small, yellow flags — for Vernal Pool 6 were staked into the decomposed granite near where the east-west trail converges with the north-south trail.

Munoz said most of the park's vernal pools haven't been disturbed, but he couldn't officially say if Vernal Pool 6 was affected by the trails.

"I will defer to the biologist to make that determination," he said.

He added, however, that the likelihood that the pool was affected is high.

The trails have been constantly used and constantly weeded by the public and the city, Munoz said, with the last weeding as recent as May.

He has said the city considers the trails "user-defined," meaning they appeared organically over time from park users. Some historic aerial photos of the area from decades ago also show trails of some kind there, Munoz said.

Some environmentalists have disagreed with the city's user-defined distinction, however, pointing to the professional nature of the east-west trail's construction and its sudden appearance.

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Reactions

Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who serves as a council liaison to the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, said in her discussions with city staff members about the trail, they have been "apologists for what happened."

"I really do hope that somebody takes responsibility. ... It's a profound disappointment to me," she said.

"It's unfortunate that our city hasn't done a better job and we need the federal government to step in. The thing about the federal government is they may be requesting, but it's sort of like, 'Talk softly and carry a bit stick.'"

Brian Burnett of Friends of Fairview Nature Park, which opposes development in the park, said in an email: "Critical habitat and endangered species are important to protect, as well as the peace and quiet the park provides. I hope that area is restored.

"Fairview is one of the last places left [where] kids can go exploring and experience nature firsthand in our city. Exploring fast-food parking lots on Harbor Boulevard just isn't the same."

Richard Mehren, chairman of the park's advisory committee, said he visited the site this week and saw that some of the flags had already been stepped on or torn out. He tried to fix them.

Mehren alluded to the possibility of creating a buffer zone around the outline of the pools.

"That should've been done a long time ago, frankly," he said.