Commentary: Beating the nature out of Fairview Park

Apparently a well-worn foot trail near the vernal pools in Fairview Park was being used by kids to get to school. It was the sort of trail that one often finds across empty lots as people naturally take the shortest distance between two points.

Under California law, when there is notorious use of a trail across real property for at least five years, the users of that trail can claim that a prescriptive easement has been established for their benefit or for the benefit of the public, and the use of that trail can continue.

Obviously, there are other issues in the Fairview Park situation. And that's why we have lawsuits.

One side might argue that since kids were using the trail and the city knew about it, the city could face a negligence suit if someone was injured. So the possible solutions would be to fence off the trail so no one could use it, post it properly or simply make it safe.

This could go on forever with arguments back and forth, but hopefully common sense will prevail, the vernal pools will be made whole and the trail will in some way be made less intrusive while still safe to use.

As far as Fairview Park as a whole goes, I've long argued (but few listen) that it should be kept in as natural a state as possible. Just leave it alone.

A few years ago, the Costa Mesa City Council started the process of turning the park into a well-manicured garden; some council members said they were restoring the park and replanting it with native vegetation.

At that time, I argued that the way the park was was its natural condition, and the plants then existing there were the native plants. I also pointed out to the council that evolution is all about change, survival and natural selection.

When the council spoke of ripping out the plants and replacing them with native plants, I wanted to know (but got no good answers) exactly which "native plants" they wanted to put in. Did the council want to put in native plants from a couple of hundred years ago, or 1,000 years ago, or a million years ago?

Native then is not native now. Native should mean wind-sown plants that grow naturally with no help from man.

All those so-called old native plants have lost the battle of survival to varieties that can survive in current conditions without assistance.

The so-called native plants that the council has put in require constant, and costly, life support by staff members.

What we have now in Fairview Park is a sort of Disneyland — an artificial park. And there are moves afoot to further screw up its naturalness with fancy trails and a new parking lot so people can walk over every inch to see the artificially maintained plants and oooh and ahhh over "nature."

What we see developing in Fairview Park is a big plastic terrarium or a zoo for plants instead of a place where wild nature can be seen and experienced as it really is. Instead of Walden Woods we will have another Boston Common.

M.H. MILLARD publishes the CM Press blog. He lives in Costa Mesa.

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