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Schools to Unveil Plans for San Pedro Marine Park

Times Staff Writer

In an effort to garner community support, Los Angeles Unified School District officials tonight will go to San Pedro to unveil their plans for a marine science educational park at the former Ft. MacArthur military base.

The Ft. MacArthur Project will feature a center for the care of stranded and injured marine mammals; a marine studies laboratory for university researchers and gifted high school students; a job training program in marine- and harbor-related occupations, and an outdoor education program in which students will explore nearby tide pools and salt marshes to learn about marine life.

It will cost about $10 million to build, and the school district wants to place an additional $10 million in trust and use the income to operate the park. The money is being raised privately, with $6 million already pledged.

The proposed educational park is an attempt by the district to keep the 52-acre site, which is at the southern end of San Pedro, atop bluffs that overlook the Pacific.

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Restriction on Deed

Also known as the Ft. MacArthur Upper Reservation, the land was deeded to the district in 1979 by the federal government, which stipulated that a high school be built there. When the district didn’t build the high school, saying there was no need, the U.S. Department of Education announced it wanted the land back.

The department has since given conditional approval for the educational park, however, and school district officials hope to get final approval this summer.

“What we must produce by July 1, 1989, is clear evidence that this year we have undertaken a major effort to meet the lease agreement of 10 years ago,” said Paul Possemato, associate superintendent for educational planning.

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“It was either use it or lose it,” said Warren Furutani, the school board member who represents San Pedro and is a prime mover behind the educational park project.

Although he knows of no opposition to the project, Furutani said he asked for tonight’s public meeting--to begin at 7 p.m. at the Peck Park Auditorium--because he wants “an eyeball-to-eyeball with the community.”

Louis Dominguez, president of the Palisades Assn., a group of residents who live near the Upper Reservation, said he has not heard of any opposition either. Dominguez said Furutani spoke at the group’s last meeting, and there were no complaints.

“From a personal standpoint,” he said, “I’m delighted with it. I have daughters who are extremely interested in marine science.”

Dominguez said he and others in the community are also anxious to once again have a permanent marine mammal care facility in the Los Angeles area. There had been such a center at Marineland in Rancho Palos Verdes, but when Marineland was sold in May, 1987, the animal care unit was shut down.

$3 Million Committed

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, the company that bought Marineland and already owns Sea World, has committed $3 million to pay for construction and maintenance of the new animal care facility at Ft. MacArthur. Harcourt Brace has also been financing a temporary facility at Dockweiler State Beach.

The Milken Family Foundation--a charity established by junk bond financier Michael Milken, who was indicted Wednesday on racketeering and securities charges--has also committed $1 million toward the educational park.

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The district expects to receive $2 million from other sources, including the sale of some property it owns in Northern California. It must raise an additional $14 million to finance the park.

Possemato said he intends to seek funding from oil companies and the Los Angeles Harbor Department, among others.

“We’re going to beg, borrow and not steal,” he said. “We’re going to put our case in front of a number of business and community groups.”


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