Costa Mesa to fund environmental studies for proposed bike trail into Talbert Regional Park

A proposal for a bike trail that would wind partly through Talbert Regional Park moved forward this week when the Costa Mesa City Council unanimously approved spending $155,977 on related environmental services.

As envisioned, the planned 1.3-mile path would run through the park between West 19th Street and the Greenville-Banning Channel Trail along the Santa Ana River, then outside the park along West 19th to Placentia Avenue.

In coming months, Dudek — an Encinitas-based consulting firm — will perform environmental reviews, meet with other agencies to discuss the proposal and study ways to offset the project's potential effects on the environment.

That work is expected to wrap up in November.

"We want to make sure everything is mitigated to a level that's well beyond the impact that's created by this project," said Raja Sethuraman, the city's public services director.

The trail would be about 10 feet wide and likely be made of asphalt or concrete, Sethuraman told the council Tuesday. A walking path would run alongside it.

Inside Talbert, the trail would run largely on a Southern California Edison easement for utility poles, according to Sethuraman.

Councilman Allan Mansoor called the proposal a "golden opportunity" to provide bike connectivity to other cities and the beach.

"It's an opportunity to give people access to Talbert Park," he said. "How are they going to learn about Talbert Park, how are they going to appreciate Talbert Park, if they don't have access to it?"

Mayor Pro Tem Sandy Genis balked at the prospect of laying concrete in the park for the trail.

"I want a simple bike trail," she said. "I don't feel a need for a 10-foot-wide slab of cement going through the park."

Others echoed her concerns during Tuesday's meeting.

"This road would cause both temporary and permanent impacts to the wildlife — temporary in its construction and permanent in the increased volume and faster traffic introduced into this wildlife corridor," said Cindy Black, a local environmental activist.

Councilman Jim Righeimer dismissed such objections as "goofiness" and said, "Environmentalists who do this look like kooks."

"People in this community want a simple bike trail and it's like, 'I don't want to destroy the environment; the world's going to end,'" he said. "The world works on a clock and a calendar. We have to get things done."

City Manager Tom Hatch told the council that approving the money for environmental studies "is a vital step if you want more information on what those impacts are down the road."

Mayor Katrina Foley urged city staff to do whatever is feasible to protect the natural habitat in the area and said concrete should be avoided to the extent possible.

"I think we have to find a balance, and hopefully we can do that," she said.

If all goes according to plan, construction on the trail could start in summer 2018 and be completed a year after that, Sethuraman said.

The estimated cost of the project is $2.1 million, with grants covering about $1.7 million of that.

luke.money@latimes.com

Twitter: @LukeMMoney

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