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Daily Pilot

Commentary: Celebrate, protect Fairview's natural state

By Robin Leffler

5:43 PM PST, November 23, 2013

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Numerous articles have appeared in the Daily Pilot about Fairview Park. Last weekend, an organized community event was held at the park to celebrate this wonderful piece of land.

On Nov. 17 members of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (CM4RG) joined with numerous friends for a picnic at Fairview Park to express strong support for preserving the park.

Of the nearly 200 attendees throughout the day, many expressed appreciation for the park's open space as the perfect place for family outdoor adventures and activities, its natural environment and wildlife habitats, its Native American historical, archaeological and cultural importance, and its train rides. Archaeologists, naturalists, bird enthusiasts and descendants of the first people to live on that land shared knowledge of Fairview Park's many unique features.

All were mindful of the plaque in Costa Mesa City Hall that says, "Fairview Park was acquired by the city in 1985 to assure the availability of open space to its citizens."

The picnic area was decorated with signs stating support for a natural park and emphasizing what would be lost if unnecessary paved areas, playground equipment and athletic fields are allowed to destroy this jewel.

What a loss it would be if something unique was turned into just another playground and sports field — we have many of those.

What is rare and special about the park are the uncluttered vistas, vernal pools (home of the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp and feeding area for migratory birds) and easily damaged and irreplaceable Native American archaeological sites.

As reported in the Pilot, concerns surfaced in July when plans for a 42-space parking lot inside Fairview Park near Pacific Avenue were suddenly introduced for a Parks and Recreation Commission hearing.

The City Council ultimately voted 3 to 2 to approve a large vehicle turnaround and playground area despite the overwhelming majority of speakers who asked that the park be left alone. Archaeologists, biologists, representatives of the native people and well-informed residents voiced concerns about harm to archaeological sites of national significance and sensitive unique biological features.

Speakers noted that Native American tribes and the California Office of Historic Preservation were not consulted, as required by law. Many others spoke of their love for the park just as it is.

Interestingly, soon after the council's decision, the state Office of Historic Preservation wrote to city CEO Tom Hatch indicating that the project could harm the archaeological site, which for decades has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, because evidence shows that the site extends to where the turnaround is planned.

Recently an unauthorized decomposed granite trail mysteriously appeared on top of a vernal pool site. The council majority-appointed Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee discussed putting athletic fields on the park. And the council made the nonsensical decision to spend $650,000 to light parking lots in a park that closes at dusk. These all look like precursors to future development.

We strongly support leaving Fairview Park in its natural state, but we are afraid that the council majority thinks that Fairview Park is a waste of land unless it is developed.

The park is wonderful, unique and much appreciated by visitors who love its natural aspect. People who feel this way are as important as any other demographic.

If you feel the same way, make your opinion heard at the next council meeting, no matter how long the mayor makes you wait to make your public comments.

ROBIN LEFFLER is president of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government.