Annual Fish Fry to remain at Fairview Park this year, despite earlier ecological concerns

Despite earlier indications that organizers would have to fish up a new venue because of ecological concerns, the annual Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club Fish Fry will be allowed to remain in Fairview Park this year, officials confirmed Friday.

The catch, though, is that the 71st annual event won’t be held the weekend after Memorial Day — its typical time slot over the years. It’s scheduled instead for Sept. 21-23.

The event has been held at Fairview since 2012, when it relocated from Lions Park. Both sites are in Costa Mesa.

In response to concerns raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, city officials announced last October that four events usually held in Fairview Park might have to relocate: the 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.

The worry was that such larger-scale events could negatively impact bird-nesting season in the park, according to communications from Fish and Wildlife to the city.

Of particular concern were the federally endangered least Bell’s vireo and the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher.

“The issue of having the event in June dealt with the gnatcatcher,” Lions Club member Mike Scheafer said Friday. “Apparently June is the prime mating month for that bird, so there were some disruptions, apparently, by us being there that time of the year.”

In follow-ups with Fish and Wildlife, Costa Mesa was informed that events like the Fish Fry could remain in Fairview Park so long as they were held outside of nesting season, according to city spokesman Tony Dodero.

Dodero confirmed Friday that the Fish Fry is good to go in the park this year, but said he wasn’t certain what the plans are for the other events.

The Community Run’s website states the event will be held Sept. 23 at Fairview Park, but an official could not be reached Friday to confirm that.

Though the Lions Club considered a change in venue this year — the OC Fair & Event Center and Fair Drive in front of City Hall were among the alternatives discussed — Scheafer said he thinks keeping the Fish Fry in Fairview Park was the preferable option.

While changing the date is a “major departure” for the event, he said, one of the main focuses of the Lions Club is to be good environmental stewards.

“If us moving it to September protects the environment and protects a species that is in trouble, we don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

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