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Commentary: Don't misrepresent conservancy's aim

April 03, 2013|By Suzanne Forster

As a long-time Newport Beach resident, I was surprised and very disappointed by Mayor Keith Curry's public response to the state Supreme Court's decision on Sunset Ridge Park, as quoted in the Daily Pilot ("Sunset Ridge Park gets OK," March 29) and the Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch.

I'm not disappointed that Sunset Ridge Park will become a reality. I've always supported that result. If the land is not to be protected and preserved as coastal open space, then a park is the right solution. Although, along with many other West Newport residents, I would have preferred a passive park.

On March 28, the court decided not to hear the Banning Ranch Conservancy's appeal of a lower court's ruling on the Sunset Ridge Park environmental impact report.

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In Patch's article, Curry said he was "'elated' with the court's decision," but went on to say that the conservancy's "goal was to block a community-supported park project. The conservancy failed."

In fact, the conservancy was one of the early grassroots organizations in favor of a park on Sunset Ridge and is on record as supporting a park project from the beginning. The conservancy opposed only the controversial, growth-inducing Banning Ranch entrance road to the park, which would have become the first phase of Bluff Road, thus enabling the proposed mega-development of Banning Ranch.

In later deliberations, when the conservancy asked that the California Coastal Commission rethink allowing Encelia, an essential component of critical habitat for the ranch's endangered species, to be destroyed by the placement of a baseball diamond, the commission voted in favor of the field. The conservancy accepted this decision with grace and good will, despite concerns that it might set an unfortunate precedent for future environmental causes.

The conservancy's goal was never to block a community-supported park project. It supported the project right along with the community.

Full disclosure: I recently joined the conservancy's board of directors. I'm also a 40-year Newport resident who loves this beautiful city enough to want to protect its coastline and conserve its precious natural resources. But apparently, according to Curry, that makes me a "cynical obstructionist," along with the rest of the conservancy.

In the Daily Pilot article, Curry said that Newport's residents, taxpayers and young people "were being held hostage by this very cynical group of obstructionists."

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