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Costa Mesa unveils plan to fight mosquitoes in Fairview Park wetlands

Visitors to Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park walk along a path in the park’s artificial wetlands. The city unveiled a strategy this week to deal with mosquitoes breeding in that area.

Visitors to Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park walk along a path in the park’s artificial wetlands. The city unveiled a strategy this week to deal with mosquitoes breeding in that area.

(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Cutting back plants, cleaning storm drains and hiring a staff member to focus on mosquitoes are all part of a strategy to tackle the pests breeding in the artificial wetlands at Fairview Park, Costa Mesa city officials said Tuesday.

The battle plan was unveiled a week after a mosquito trapped in Costa Mesa tested positive for West Nile virus — the first positive test in the city this year.

City staff met with officials from the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District last week to discuss strategies to tamp down on mosquitoes breeding in the Fairview Park wetlands, which were put in place in 2013 to help naturally filter urban runoff.

“We talked frankly about do we or do we not drain the ponds for a period of time when mosquitoes are most likely to develop in a water environment,” Costa Mesa Chief Executive Tom Hatch said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “The short answer from the Vector Control District was ‘no.’”

Instead, the city, county and Vector Control have hatched a series of strategies to deal with mosquitoes around the ponds. The blood-sucking insects have been bugging residents of the Lower Birds neighborhood on the northern edge of Fairview Park for some time.

Already, the city has inspected and cleaned several storm drains and catch basins in the area to eliminate possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Hatch said.

City officials also have begun cutting back excess vegetation and clearing dead plants from the ponds, he said. Periodic pruning will take place on a more regular basis, he added.

Vector Control is doing additional trapping in the area and working with residents to identify and eliminate potential mosquito breeding areas, Hatch said.

“It’s about staying diligent,” he said. “It’s about working with residents, communicating with residents, using all these measures and continuing to monitor the measures to ensure they are effective.”

The city plans to bring on a staff member to focus on issues pertaining to the ponds, Hatch said.

The city also has put tips on its website, costamesaca.gov, on how residents can “fight the bite” and protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes.

Common tips include dumping or draining standing water, replacing window and door screens as needed and reporting mosquito activity to Vector Control.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley said her “greatest concern is that we get a handle on the mosquitoes and the pond management.”

She believes any staff member the city hires needs to be in the park on a regular basis.

“We need to have a staff member who isn’t sitting here and managing the park from City Hall but who is actually out in the park touring, visiting all the different locations,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said he supports the actions planned for Fairview but that he wouldn’t rule out further action at the ponds, if needed.

“I think we can solve it, I think we’re 95% there, I think it’s going to work,” he said. “But if it doesn’t, I’m going to be supportive of just shutting this thing down. It’s not worth it for the neighborhood.”

Last year, West Nile virus infected 97 people in Orange County and was blamed for eight deaths, according to health officials. Three West Nile-positive mosquitoes were found in Costa Mesa last year.

This week, an Anaheim woman in her 60s tested positive for the virus — the first human infection reported in Orange County this year, according to a county news release.

Symptoms of West Nile virus can include fever, headache, body aches, convulsions and muscle weakness. Those who believe they are infected should see a physician immediately, experts say.

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Luke Money, lucas.money@latimes.com

Twitter: @LukeMMoney


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