Costa Mesa considers parks and recreation goals

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met alongside the City Council on Tuesday at City Hall to review about a dozen goals.

One underlying question soon became apparent: Are Costa Mesa's recreational offerings such as parks and community gardens primarily benefiting residents, or are the city's assets mostly used by folks from out of town?

The question reflects "a lot of concerns in this community," said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger.

"We rent fields, we have all these things going on," he said, "but we continue to have great assets which we don't manage or we give to other people who may or may not be serving the community, this community, as much as they should."

Commission Chairman Byron de Arakal expressed a similar concern regarding any updating of the city's athletic field use and allocation policy — the issuing of permits for city and Newport-Mesa Unified School District athletic fields to organizations and the general public.

"I just want the community to know that my first priority is that those assets are to be used to meet the needs of our community first," de Arakal said, "and if there aren't enough assets or resources to serve those needs, there are no outside deals. Period."

Councilwoman Sandy Genis called for a balance, saying many Costa Mesans use assets of other communities too, such as Huntington Dog Beach and Newport Beach's coastline in general.

"If we start telling people from other cities, 'You can't use our stuff,' well, they're gonna tell us we can't use their stuff," Genis said.

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Park plans

The two government bodies also looked at the potential acquisition of the county-run Talbert Regional Park, which the council proposed in March.

Mensinger said preliminary talks have been held with the county. Genis said city should finish its Fairview Park efforts "before taking on something else."

Councilwoman Wendy Leece urged that any management plans for Talbert fit into the Orange Coast River Park's plans. The proposed 1,000-acre preserve would encompass nature portions of Newport, Huntington and Costa Mesa, including Talbert and nearby Fairview Park.

"We should fit in with what they're planning," Leece said.

Mayor Jim Righeimer also urged the city to look into incorporating a portion of the Banning Ranch property.

"I think we should work with the Banning Ranch Conservancy with regards to that," he said. "We talk about trails and bikes and all that. There's no reason we can't have Costa Mesa from Fairview Park down to the ocean. ... There's no tax revenue out there. There's nothing out there for the city of Newport Beach.

"I think we want to be ready if Newport Beach wants to let us take that over."

Commissioner Bob Graham also pushed for easy bike access to Huntington State Beach from Costa Mesa, particularly because he felt electric bicycles will become very popular.

"It's gonna provide everybody much more flexibility as to where they go if we provide the bike paths for them," he said.

Commissioner Kim Pederson argued for early public involvement in Costa Mesa parks decisions, even on controversial issues. "Don't come to the table after the table's been cleared. Get there early and get your voice in," he said.

Another item up for discussion was the naming of Fairview Park's so-called "bridge to nowhere," a footbridge that rises over Placentia Avenue and provides pedestrian access to the park on either end of Placentia.

"Just handle it, OK?" Righeimer said to the commission. "'Bridge to nowhere' is not a good name. It's a bridge to somewhere, so let's name it."

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Bark Park maintenance

De Arakal on Wednesday discussed the future of the Costa Mesa Bark Park. The dog park on Arlington Drive is administered by a nonprofit foundation, though there are concerns about its maintenance.

The commission is scheduled to study maintenance issues at the park during its May 23 meeting, de Arakal said.

After the commission makes a recommendation on the park's maintenance, de Arakal said in an email he intends to look at a "fee-for-use and other means of generating revenue to support the park."

There are current formal proposals for fees at the moment, he added.

"The dog park is an intensive use, and there are extraordinary costs to maintain it in a condition that's safe, healthy and aesthetically pleasing," de Arakal said. "Exploring fee-for-use as a potential means of subsidizing the cost of maintenance seems to me to be a prudent step."

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