Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger wants the city to conduct a "community consensus survey" to gauge interest on the future of Fairview Park.
"Some people want nothing. Some want trails. Some want sports fields," Mensinger said in an interview Wednesday. "This is an opportunity for the community to come up with a consensus solution, as opposed to what's happening now: rhetoric and misinformation."
He plans to suggest the survey during the March 3 City Council meeting — the day before the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee is scheduled to make its final vote on recommending sports facilities for the park's southeast quadrant.
The committee's acting chairman, Steve Smith, said the mayor's intent to get community input on an important issue is good, "but it's too late in the game."
The Fairview Park Committee began meeting nearly 20 months ago, and "I think anyone who's had an interest in fields, one way or the other, would have weighed in by now," Smith said.
As to his survey's timing, Mensinger said: "Great ideas just come at funny times."
He said he hopes the survey will help correct false rumors about the park, like proposals to add condos or a casino there.
"We'll take a time out. We'll all take a break," Mensinger said. "We'll all learn that it's not a casino."
He said he envisions the work being done by a professional outside firm, using scientific methods.
Smith said he doesn't want a survey to affect the committee's mission, which is to provide park recommendations to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Should the committee — which has otherwise recommended few new changes to the park — achieve a second majority vote on the sports field proposals, the ideas would move onward to parks commissioners and potentially the City Council. The first vote, split 5-4 in favor of studying the sports fields idea, was on Jan. 7.
"We're going to keep plowing forward and try to close the book on this thing," Smith said. "It's taken far too long."
In recent years, ideas to further develop portions of Fairview Park's 208 acres have come under intense scrutiny, with opinions generally falling into two camps: keeping the park as natural, passive land; or adding active-use spaces there, like sports fields or an athletic complex.
The southeast quadrant is the longtime home of the Orange County Model Engineers, a nonprofit train enthusiast group that uses most of the space.
Mensinger said if sports fields are added, "the trains aren't going anywhere" and could be incorporated alongside the fields.
Significant development within the hilly southeast quadrant is likely to face other significant hurdles.
Past archaeological and biological surveys of the roughly 45-acre quadrant have identified Native American village remnants and vernal pools, a type of temporary wetland that hosts an endangered species, the San Diego fairy shrimp.