Pedestrians, landscaping, pesticides and man-made improvements pose harm to Fairview Park's ecologically sensitive vernal pools, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found.
In addition, the service concluded after an 11-month review that the city should take steps, including fencing off the seasonal pools, to protect them and a tiny endangered species that lives in them.
The 11-page report, dated July 24, comes after the federal agency got involved last summer in a dispute that included unpermitted work on two walking trails and the resulting threat to the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp in the nearby vernal pools, a wetland-like habitat.
Costa Mesa officials and their environmental consultants plan to meet soon with the agency to talk about the report, according to a news release issued Monday. The city wants to "clarify the recommended measures, refine the scope of work and develop a work plan to help preserve vernal pools," the release stated.
The federal agency's suggested mitigation measures include various watershed restoration efforts and the posting of more educational materials about the park's biology.
Fish and Wildlife is also recommending a good amount of new fencing in areas of Fairview Park's roughly 95-acre southwest quadrant to severely restrict public access.
The fencing would create a larger buffer between public areas and the protected vernal pools, essentially seasonal ponds that fill with rainfall. As proposed, the fenced-off areas would include flatlands abutting the Harbor Soaring Society runway and the Canyon Drive parking lot.
Fish and Wildlife also recommends regular monitoring of the fences and biological resources.
The agency's report said vernal pools within the park's popular southwest quadrant have suffered over the years.
The report said pedestrians, dogs, bicycles, cars, pesticides, herbicides, landscaping and improvements to Jim Scott Stadium have harmed or could harm the vernal pools and the fairy shrimp.
Fencing for the stadium, which abuts Fairview Park, has hurt the ability of water — which the fairy shrimp need — to collect in one vernal pool, the letter states.
The park's largest vernal pool, about 3 acres, has been the target of restoration work but is not completely fenced, the report noted. Because of that, park visitors have created paths from the unfenced sections to the basin, it states.
Fish and Wildlife also said tire tracks, walking paths and dogs traveling in the vernal pools near the end of Canyon Drive have disrupted water flow, as has an added parking area off that street.
One vernal pool had become part of a temporary parking area, the report noted.
That particular vernal pool, near the Harbor Soaring Society's runway, and two others near the Estancia High School fence line, have since been roped off by the city to prevent public access.
The federal report does not address the work that was done to the decomposed granite trails sometime last July. The agency's law enforcement division is investigating the incident.
Since the Daily Pilot reported about the trails last August, no one has taken responsibility for the job. The city has spent at least $19,000 removing the decomposed granite per an emergency action issued by Fish and Wildlife in November.