A scale model airplane at Costa Mesa’s Fairview park spared by the board of accidents and burns

Scale models of airplanes flying in Fairview Park in Costa Mesa – on the chopping block due to concerns over disturbance to wildlife – may resume in the future, albeit in limited capacity and only until a new home for the hobby can be found.

That was the opinion on Tuesday of a divided city council, whose members decided by a 5-2 vote not to permanently close an airfield at the western end of the park where members of the Harbor Soaring club Society have been piloting their aircraft for about sixty years.

Instead, the panelists preferred to allow non-mechanical gliders to continue flying while city officials updated a master plan for the 200-acre park and looked for other places in the city where the remote-controlled devices. could be flown with less impact.

A White-tailed Kite hunts in the open fields of Fairview Park in Costa Mesa in March. The site’s spring pools attract many rare and endangered birds that migrate, breed and overwinter there.

(Photo file)

Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr made the suggestions in a substitution motion, after council felt ready to consider an outright closure of the field to allow for continued restoration of the rare nearby coastal spring pool complex.

The ponds are home to the endangered San Diego and Riverside Fairy Shrimp, a food source for countless numbers of equally rare bird species that migrate, winter and breed in Fairview Park.

City officials have recently attempted to strike a balance between maintaining the park’s recreational uses and preserving its ecological resources. When recreational planes were grounded during the Fairview pandemic shutdown, environmentalists saw many species return to the area.

“I so want to find a way to continue supporting the Harbor Soaring Society,” Marr said on Tuesday. “I am also confronted with the environmental piece.

“The endangered birds are not here to speak during the public comments,” she continued. “Stakeholders, in many ways, are not there to give us their input, and there is a legitimate environmental concern. “

Steve and Mina Goeller, up front, from Fountain Valley, walk their dog Shadow at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa in May 2020.

Recreation enthusiasts are taking advantage of the partial reopening of Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park in May 2020. City authorities set to revise the site’s master plan are balancing human needs with those of the region’s wildlife.

(Photo file)

Marr suggested that the former Fairview Developmental Center, a 109-acre state-owned site that city officials are considering for future housing and open-space development, might be a better place to pilot scale models. planes.

The motion calls on city staff to include in an upcoming review of the Fairview Park master plan a broad analysis of the use of all model airplanes and remote controlled airplanes. In the meantime, it allows the use of gliders in the field until the document is finalized, which could take until 2023.

Councilor Jeff Harlan seconded Marr’s motion, saying the master plan process was a more appropriate place to decide the future of model airplanes flying in Fairview Park than the council stage.

“I would like to see a compromise here – I think it’s the best we can get at the moment,” he added.

Tuesday’s decision is not the first time that the fate of the Harbor Soaring Society has been examined.

A Fairview Park steering committee considered the matter for more than a year before recommending in April that the airfield be closed or moved to the east side of the park, where OC model engineers offer free public rides.

The city’s Parks, Arts and Community Services Commission reviewed the committee’s decision in May, but recommended in a 4-1 vote that the Soaring Society be allowed to continue operating on the West Side with modifications in place.

Council members were asked to indicate whether to close the field, allow it to reopen with changes, or move it to the east side. Fairview Park administrator Cynthia D’Agosta said any option other than closure would take several years and could thwart restoration efforts.

“If we want to restore [the habitat], and our goal is to do that, the Fly Field poses some challenges, ”she said. “It will take a lot of modifications to restore it to its full capacity. “

Not all council members agreed with Marr’s compromise.

“Endangered birds are not here to speak during public comment … and there is a legitimate environmental concern.”

Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr

Mayor John Stephens has said he will support the search for an alternative location for the activity or, failing that, its total ban. Allowing only gliders on the flight field, he said, would be a tricky proposition.

“You put gliders over there, then the remote planes are going to be there. Then before you know it, the drones will be there, ”he said.

Reynolds objected to allowing gliders because rewriting the language of city ordinances, changing park signage, educating the public about the change, and monitoring usage would take too much effort.

“This discussion has taken so long for the staff,” she said. “My preference would be to continue flying closed as we move forward on the master plan – we have to invest in real time on that and in the restoration. “

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