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Model Trains Derail Golf Course Plans

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A private firm that proposed building a golf course on the site of the much-loved model train rides at Fairview Regional Park withdrew its application Wednesday following public opposition, city officials said.

Mesa Verde Partners, operators of two 18-hole city golf courses at the Costa Mesa Country Club, wanted to expand into Fairview with nine holes.

“Based on concerns expressed by the community, the partnership has withdrawn its request, effectively ending consideration of golf as a part of the park’s master plan,” Keith Van Holt, the city’s director of community services, read from a prepared city statement.

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The City Council had planned to consider the application Monday.

Mesa Verde Partners could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening, but in a letter to the city dated Tuesday, Ron Lane, a company partner, wrote: “When we submitted our proposal we believed it was a win-win situation that provided a solution for funding the park.”

City Councilman Joe Erickson said he was pleased with the announcement.

“There’s a lot of public support for not only the trains but what the voters intended [the park] to be when they voted to buy it from the county, which is a restored natural park.”

The course would have forced the relocation or closure of the Mackerel Flats and Goat Hill Junction Railroad, which earned their names from old, affectionate terms for Newport Beach and Costa Mesa respectively.

The little trains can carry three to five people in each car as they chug along 15,700 feet of track at about 6 mph.

Robert Donnelly, a founding member of the Orange County Model Engineers Club, which rallied against the golf course, said the developer “didn’t realize it was going to cause such a stir and that so many people were going to get involved. We just want to run trains and give free train rides and continue doing what we’re doing.”

A golf course might have brought in $200,000 a year for the city, but it would have covered half of the 210-acre park on Placentia Avenue. Though in need of rehabilitation, the park is revered for its vast stretches of open space, animals, wetlands and the train rides.

The mini-railroad does not provide the city with revenue but attracts about 5,000 visitors monthly. About 2,000 signed the petition to save the line.

The city still plans to review its master plan for the park this month, but it does not appear that the train rides are threatened.

“With what’s gone on in the last two weeks, I’d say we’re in concrete,” Donnelly said.


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