Wetlands habitat opens at Fairview Park

Lena Hayashi with grandsons Drew, right, and Scott Hayashi walk along the paths during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon for the Fairview Park Wetlands & Riparian Habitat.

On a windswept bluff with rippling ponds behind them, local officials Wednesday afternoon celebrated the latest phase of a multiyear revitalization effort for Fairview Park.

The Wetlands & Riparian Habitat takes up 37 acres of the 208-acre Costa Mesa park. The new habitat, replete with walking trails, plants and wildlife, is highlighted by a series of ponds and streams that collectively and naturally filter million of gallons of urban runoff.

Funders of the $5.2-million project include the Orange County Transportation Authority and Miocean, an Irvine-based nonprofit that attempts to curb the effects of urban runoff polluting Orange County’s coastline.

Ernesto Munoz, Costa Mesa’s public services director, called the five-year habitat project a “perfect marriage” of engineering and ecology that prevents a considerable amount of runoff from going into the ocean.

“This has provided a unique opportunity, a unique educational, recreational and environmental experience for people to enjoy for many generations to come,” Munoz said. “That’s what this is all about, but we’re just getting warmed up.”

With future plans still ahead in the project’s third and final phase — an interpretive center, more restoration work and a $1-million wooden boardwalk snaking through the wetlands — he quipped to the crowd of supporters that the city will still need their financial help.

“Expect to hear from us for your continued support,” Munoz said.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger called the habitat another example that makes Costa Mesa really more like a “Costa Mayberry,” a reference to the fictional town of Mayberry on the 1960s-era television program, “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Mayor Jim Righeimer referred to the nearby footbridge that spans Placentia Avenue. For years, it was “affectionately known” as Costa Mesa’s “bridge to nowhere,” he said.

"[It’s] a bridge to somewhere now. It’s a bridge to here,” Righeimer said.

“A lot of fun times, a lot of memories are going to be made through these paths and walkways in our community,” he added.

Twitter: @bradleyzint