The Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday night approved a study to possibly acquire the Talbert Nature Preserve, as well as move forward with improving access points on either end of Fairview Park.
The preserve that runs along the Santa Ana River and abuts Fairview Park is county-run, but city officials said they are unsure at this point if the county would be willing to give the land to Costa Mesa for future management.
A 4-1 vote approved looking into acquiring Talbert; Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissented.
One supporter of acquiring Talbert was resident Greg Ridge. He called the area the "poor man's Back Bay" that's not being property run by the county.
"Take it. Grab it," he told the council. "Do whatever you can to manage that piece of property. It's an absolute jewel on the Westside."
Resident Perry Valantine said with talk of looming pension liabilities and other financial woes, the city shouldn't be spending money on acquiring the park. Doing so, he said, would just be "duplicating the services of another public agency."
Robin Leffler, president of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, called the effort something in the "want to, not need to category."
Leece echoed some of Valantine's concerns, adding that sufficient spending for public safety is her No. 1 priority.
"We can't just do everything," Leece said. "We have to keep our focus on what's the most important."
She said she might be interested in the idea in the future, but not until "the safety services that we provide are more than adequate for our residents."
One of the access points, a long-standing dirt slope at the end of Canary Drive in Upper Birds neighborhood, enters the park's northern end.
The other slope, near the end of Pacific Avenue, enters the park's southern border.
Staircases are sought for both ends in an effort to improve safety and lessen any safety liability for the city.
Bob Graham, a former parks commissioner, has championed a staircase of Canary Drive since at least 2001. On Tuesday, he said getting a staircase there would be an "easy, inexpensive fix" and elevate the dirt slope from its "Third World country trail" status.
He said a survey he conducted showed the area's residents would like improved access with the staircase, though other speakers Tuesday questioned the validity of his research.
One 15-year resident said he felt that adding a staircase would increase traffic in the area, as well as create a parking problem.
The council also approved the creation of a Fairview Park advisory committee, to consist of seven at-large members, one council liaison and one parks liaison.
In other council news, the members approved six motorcycles for the Police Department, valued at nearly $163,000, and 10 other vehicles, for an additional $293,000. The funds for the five patrol vehicles and five sedans are included in the fiscal year 2012-13 budget.