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Harlan: Tread carefully before altering Fairview Park

Proposal to change master plan's called-for 10 parking spaces to 42 is cause for concern.

August 01, 2013|By Jeffrey Harlan

As I made my way from the parking lot to the grassy lawn for the Concerts in the Park finale this week at Fairview Park, a concerned Costa Mesan handed me a flier.

"Fairview Park in Jeopardy," it read in bold black letters, referring to a recent city proposal to build a parking lot and other facilities at the park's southwestern edge.

The city's Recreation and Parks Commission heard this item at its last meeting and wisely decided to postpone any decision due to questions about the project's proposed scope and considerable public outcry.

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On its face, this seems to, and should be, a minor issue that can be resolved with clarification from staff and open communication with the people who voiced their concerns.

While the proposal is in bureaucratic limbo, park preservation advocates are gearing up for another battle to ensure that a city park develops consistent with its master plan.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a major city park has been the recent subject of an unwanted plan for improvement. You may recall the City Council-driven proposal to augment TeWinkle Park's athletic complex, substantially altering the nature of that facility, died begrudgingly late last summer.

Having spent a considerable amount of time at Fairview Park organizing and managing the concerts series the past few years, I know how passionate people are about having a special place like this in Costa Mesa.

By any measure it is a unique and spectacular piece of property. The bluff-top views, dirt trails, restored wetlands, model train tracks and natural open space provide a welcoming and wondrous environment.

Because of Fairview Park's size and importance, the community memorialized its vision for the 208 acres in a master plan. Originally approved by the council in 1998, and revised slightly in 2001 and 2002, the 201-page document details how the park should be developed.

The vision is articulated simply and clearly — "The master plan presents a park for passive uses."

Furthermore, the master plan notes that "the concept of a park with a natural setting and a very low level of 'improvements,' in terms of buildings or other construction, appears to have widespread community support."

Over the years the community support has not waned. At the last few general plan update workshops, and in conversations with others at the park this summer, I hear folks echo the same refrain: Keep Fairview Park a natural open space.

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