Worries about birds may boot 4 community events from Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park

Rick Ganey, Kris Montgomery and Jim Ferryman, from left, cook up fish during the 70th annual Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club Fish Fry this year. Four events, including the Fish Fry, may have to relocate from Fairview Park because of environmental concerns.
(File Photo)

Four popular community events usually held at Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park may have to find new homes as a result of concerns raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about their possible effects on nesting birds, city officials said Friday.

Affected are the Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club Fish Fry, the Costa Mesa Community Run, the Costa Mesa Foundation’s Concerts in the Park series and the pancake run presented by the Orange County Track Club and Estancia High School’s track and cross country programs.

“After much thought and painful deliberation by city staff, we have decided that moving these four events out of Fairview Park is the right direction given the facts at hand,” city spokesman Tony Dodero said. “We are fully committed to assisting these groups with a smooth transition and in finding alternative locations for their events.”

The decision — detailed Wednesday in a message from City Manager Tom Hatch to City Council members and department heads — comes on the heels of communications from Fish and Wildlife regarding the negative effects larger-scale events could have during bird nesting season in the park.

“In short, the federal government highly recommends that the city look for another location to host these events,” Hatch wrote.

Christine Medak, a biologist with Fish and Wildlife, outlined the agency’s concerns in an email to the city Oct. 2. Her comments are related to “all events during the nesting season of approximately February through September of each year,” Hatch wrote in his memo.

Of particular concern are the federally endangered least Bell’s vireo and the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher, Medak said.

Travis Lagerlof dances with his son Ford on his shoulders during the 2014 Concerts in the Park series at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa.
(File Photo )

Over the years, Hatch said, the city has retained a biologist to conduct nesting surveys — at a cost of about $500 each — before each event in Fairview.

A biologist also has been present during events to keep an eye on things, he added.

“If the biologist had detected an active nest as part of the survey or observed a federally listed bird species in distress during any of these … events, then the city would have been required to immediately make adjustments to the footprint of the event or potentially immediately stop the event,” Hatch wrote.

Despite that, Hatch said, the city has been hearing from Fish and Wildlife for a few months that the agency doesn’t want to “see any larger events like these at Fairview Park.”

City staff has been in contact with the events’ organizers to tell them “they will likely need to relocate to another park or area of the community,” Hatch said.

“I understand that it is a significant change for the community and that it creates more work and expense for everyone, but I do not see an alternative that fits within the guidelines expected from the federal government,” he wrote.

Runners begin the 10K race during the 10th annual Costa Mesa Community Run in April. The run has historically looped through Fairview Park.
(File Photo )

In May, Lions Club board Vice President Mike Scheafer told the Daily Pilot that he had heard the Fish Fry might have to move from Fairview Park because of environmental concerns.

Scheafer could not be reached for additional comment Friday afternoon.

While it’s not yet clear what the future holds, one option for the Fish Fry might be to temporarily move to the Civic Center area along Fair Drive, Dodero said.

Once work wraps up in Lions Park — where the city is building a new library — it’s possible the Fish Fry could move back there, he added.

Karen Barloon, president of the Costa Mesa Community Run, said she hopes to find a date outside of nesting season when the event could be held in Fairview Park.

“We want that park feel and we want to showcase Fairview Park,” she said. “We’re not looking to keep it in April and move the event. I would rather change the date and still have all the ambiance the park offers to the community and our runners.”

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