DANA POINT : Dana Woods Park About to Go Public

Twelve years after it was dedicated as a park site by the County Board of Supervisors, Dana Woods Park, home to several California redwoods, will officially become public property Sept. 1.

The board of directors of the Capistrano Bay Park and Recreation District voted unanimously last week to accept the four-acre park into its jurisdiction, finally taking it out of the legal limbo where it has languished. The board vote came after the results of a survey overwhelmingly indicated the residents of Dana Point wanted the park in the public domain, said David Lewis, district administrator.

"Between 70 and 80% of those responding to our survey preferred it to be a public park," Lewis said.

The park's status was brought into question by the Dana Woods Homeowners Assn., the group of residents who live in the 240-home subdivision that surrounds the park. Since 1980, when the tract was built, the homeowners' group has spent about $200,000 to maintain the park.

While the homeowners paid taxes and legally held title to the property, the county held the right to transfer its ownership to a government entity based on the original terms of the development agreement, Lewis said.

"For whatever reason, whether it was financial or for some safety reasons, the county never accepted it as part of its parkland," Lewis said.

The matter finally came to a head last fall, partly because the Dana Woods homeowners sought to install a gate for their development, and the park as well. The question of whether the gate will be allowed remains unanswered, but pedestrian and bicycle access to the park has been assured, Lewis said.

"They compounded the problem when they decided to go gate-guarded," Lewis said. "That made it time to resolve this thing one way or another. We're not in the business of giving away public parkland. Actually, we'll be saving the homeowners money and maintaining the park at a little higher level."

Along with its picnic facilities and play equipment, the park has several California redwood trees.

"It is one of the few significant groves of redwood trees in all of Southern California," Lewis said.

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