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Boardwalk is going nowhere

Costa Mesa has essentially scrapped the idea of a walkway in Fairview Park, deeming it unworkable.

January 10, 2014|By Bradley Zint
  • Pictured is a portion of the Fairview Park Wetlands & Riparian Habitat. A boardwalk would have started around this point, gone off the dirt trail and through the thick brush to give walkers a close-up view of the habitat, but those plans now appear to be scrapped.
Pictured is a portion of the Fairview Park Wetlands &… (BRADLEY ZINT, Daily…)

On a recent sunny afternoon, nature was buzzing around a section of the newly revitalized area of Fairview Park.

Birds and other wildlife were all around, sounding off in the trees, ponds and thick brush beyond the manicured walking trails of the park's Wetlands & Riparian Habitat, located in the 208-acre park's northwestern quadrant.

For some time now, Costa Mesa officials had hoped that a raised boardwalk would guide visitors through portions of the 37-acre wetlands area, giving them an up-close look at where the trees loom overhead and the brush is practically impenetrable.

But now, it seems that the proposed $1-million, 1,300-foot boardwalk with viewing decks has been deemed infeasible, and the idea essentially scrapped, according to city correspondence obtained by the Daily Pilot.

The City Council last year gave initial approval to a conceptual design for the boardwalk. In November, city officials met with five stakeholder agencies to discuss the plans, which would have been implemented under "minimally disruptive construction methods" and not required the removal of the large trees. Officials also cited the recreational and educational benefits of the boardwalk.

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At the meeting were representatives from the county, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Orange County Transportation Authority, the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officials said the level of outside involvement is understandable: The city needs the approval of some of the agencies for changes or additions to that part of the park. Other agencies have provided money, making them stakeholders.

In a letter sent to council members and top city administrators Dec. 12, Costa Mesa's public services director, Ernesto Munoz, wrote that FWS said the wetlands area is a conservation easement and, as such, could not support a boardwalk. The sentiment was then echoed by the other agencies.

"That pretty much stops that project," Munoz said in an interview Friday. "It tables it."

FWS spokeswoman Jane Hendron said in a follow-up interview this week that the easement precludes any improvements to it.

"The service took that and interpreted that to mean that a boardwalk would be considered an improvement, which would not be allowed under that conservation easement," she said.

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