O.C. looks at letting trusts run parkland

Times Staff Writer

The Board of Supervisors adopted a plan Tuesday to study how Orange County parks should be managed, and whether private trusts could take care of some land. Park officials will also consider turning over some small recreation areas to cities.

Parker Hancock, head of the county's Harbors, Beaches & Parks Department, said the goal was to find ways to meet the recreational needs of a growing population. The department has been underfunded and understaffed in recent years.

Nothing in the strategic plan approved unanimously by supervisors is final, he said, except the department's new name, which is Orange County Parks.

One of the more controversial proposals would allow private trusts and conservancy groups to manage some county parks. Some people who spoke at the supervisors' meeting rejected the idea, saying county officials should keep control of the parks and increase funding while relying on volunteers to help manage the properties.

Others objected to partnering with private trusts.

The Times reported this week that county officials were considering whether to allow a trust established by Irvine Co. Chairman Donald L. Bren to manage some parkland. Irvine Co. executives manage the trust.

"We will not support a corporate takeover of our land," one opponent told the supervisors.

Another speaker said partnering with corporations was risky and not in the best interest of environmental management of county parks.

Hancock said county staff would study how other counties manage parks through agreements with trusts and conservancy groups before sending recommendations to the board.

He said park officials were looking for ways to better manage large open space areas, and trusts and conservancy groups may have the answer.

About 20 speakers opposed the plan, and a few demanded to know how the partnerships would work. They got few answers. Chairman Chris Norby explained that "it's a planning document" only.

Under the plan, about 11 department-owned properties that total less than 100 acres and are used mostly by nearby residents may be offered to cities for recreational use, Hancock said.

--

hgreza@latimes.com

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°