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Envisioning the future of Talbert

Those who want Costa Mesa to take control of the park see nothing but upside. Detractors can't understand taking on the burden.

March 15, 2013|By Bradley Zint
(KEVIN CHANG )

When Steve Mensinger passes Victoria Pond, he sees potential for a lot more than what's there.

It could use a dock or maybe a gazebo, Costa Mesa's mayor pro tem says. Perhaps it should be set up for fishing or, at the very least, have a walkable path around the water's edge.

But right now that little lake is fenced off and the area minimally maintained. It doesn't have to be that way, though, he asserts.

If Mensinger and the other members of the City Council have their way, the county will give Victoria Pond and the rest of Talbert Regional Park to Costa Mesa to manage and potentially improve.

On March 5, the council voted 4 to 1 to explore acquiring the nearly 180-acre park along the Santa Ana River that lies within the city limits. Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissented, saying that in these critical financial times, city money could better be spent on public safety.

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Mensinger and Mayor Jim Righeimer counter that improving Talbert would be another city infrastructure project that — when combined with better schools, parks and public safety — will make Costa Mesa a more attractive place for families to live.

Mensinger said Talbert, combined with Fairview Park and the Costa Mesa Golf Course, is about 1,000 acres.

"You've got water, you've got land, you've got mesas, bluffs," Mensinger said. "You've got so many different ecosystems right there ... theoretically, [all three] are as big as any park in Orange County.

"The question becomes, 'How do we put the sum of the total to make it the best for Costa Mesa?'"

The park is split into two sections: a nature preserve north of Victoria Street that abuts Fairview Park and a section south of Victoria that shares a border with the northwestern edge of Banning Ranch in Newport Beach.

The nature preserve is ideal, Mensinger said, with its well-kept trails, grassland, picnic tables, restroom and restored habitat. The southern half containing Victoria Pond is nothing like the preserve.

It's mostly fenced off, but not entirely inaccessible, he said, to which Righeimer added that the area is attracting the wrong kind of crowd.

"The homeless call it 'the jungle,'" Righeimer said. "You can go in bushes and see people living in there and sleeping in there."

The county's willingness to relinquish the land remains unclear. If the city took over, it would have to be prepared to take on the additional liabilities that come with running the park.

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