City: Work on Fairview trail will be done soon

Although crews this week have removed truckloads of unapproved sediment placed on two trails in Fairview Park in Costa Mesa, the job isn't quite complete.

City officials had hoped to have the project done by now, but after some delays, they now expect to finish by the end of this week.

The work remains within the nearly $14,000 budget, Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz said Tuesday.

The two trails — topped sometime this summer with decomposed granite without Costa Mesa City Hall's permission — are in the 208-acre park's southeastern quadrant. No one has taken responsibility for the work.

After environmentalists raised concerns in August about the trails negatively affecting sensitive habitat nearby, a city study confirmed their suspicions, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered that the trails be removed.

On Nov. 14, the federal agency ruled in its "emergency" directive that because the habitat, officially known as a vernal pool, contains the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp, the trails and granite must be taken out so that the tiny species can reproduce during the winter rainy season.

Since Dec. 13, workers from Endemic Environmental Services, a Huntington Beach-based consulting firm, began removing the granite by hand.

Last week, as many as five laborers with brooms and hand tools removed the granite from the east-west trail. That path, roughly 400 feet long and 10 to 12 feet wide, had a 1-inch layer of granite. It runs along the fence line separating Fairview Park from Parsons Field next to Estancia High School.

Three or four truckloads of sediment were hauled away before getting down to the natural soil, said Crysta Dickson, the FWS-approved biologist who is overseeing the job.

The north-south trail, which is about 120 feet long, was approved by the city years ago, but was widened and topped with the granite sometime this summer without city permission. It is adjacent to the fence separating the park and Jim Scott Stadium.

On Monday, two men using a small tractor scraped away layers of dirt along the north-south trail. The path seems to have six inches of material on top, Dickson said. She described the pace as "surgical."

The fairy shrimp nearby, she said, are in their cyst phase. When it rains and water collects in their vernal pools, the shrimp can hatch. The vernal pools next to the trails could contain a few shrimp or as many as hundreds of thousands, Dickson said.

Munoz said the remaining work will be done by hand. The tractor on Monday helped loosen the soil, he said.

"We don't want to remove any more soil than we really have to," Munoz said. "We just want to get rid of the [decomposed granite]. It was very compacted."

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