Parks commissioners prefer to compromise in battle over Fairview park flyers

Members of the Harbor Soaring Society – who have flown remotely controlled planes at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa for decades – are once again hoping to be cleared for take off, after city commissioners this week favored the search for a compromise between them and environmentalists seeking their ouster.

The city Parks, Arts and Community Services Commission Thursday, was asked to comment on whether club members should be allowed to resume flight over a western part of the 208 acre open space, where leisure has historically taken precedence over cultural and ecological interests.

But in recent years, as city staff prepare a master plan for Fairview Park that aims to protect the species of birds and the vernal pools they visit, the future of the Harbor Soaring Society has been in the air.

Citizen groups on both sides of the argument have argued their case before the Fairview Park Steering Committee since March 2020, just before the pandemic closed the city’s land.

Club members drafted several sets of plans, promising to limit the hours, noise levels and types of boats that can be piloted and to create a training and certification process for leaflets seeking permits from the city. The members of the steering committee, however, remained largely unmoved.

“There are a lot of flying community misconceptions that have been presented to this committee – just tell lies,” FPSC President Andy Campbell told Commissioners on Thursday, using aerial maps to show land degradation. near the flying field and citing studies now that aircraft harass species of birds.

“We all thought at the committee that… people are nice people, and they do good things for the community. But the flying activity just wasn’t a compatible use on the west side of the park, ”he continued.

Campbell’s committee recommended at an April 14 meeting that the Soaring Society be moved to the east end of Fairview, where a model train club operates, and that the West Flying Ground be closed indefinitely. Such a decision would require an environmental review that could potentially keep planes on the ground for years.

“Basically, the steering committee’s vote was to kick us out of the park for good,” HSS president Mike Costello said on Thursday. “[But] with some modifications, flight can be continued with minimal effect on birds. “

The commissioners heard from several members of the HSS and environmentalists from the Sea & Sage Audubon Society and the Fairview Park Alliance before making their own comments.

Commissioner Anjely Vallarta said she was concerned about how the city might enforce any rules or changes that might be imposed on flight activities and said it seemed wiser to let Fairview Park recover from years of use. human.

Vice-President Cassius Rutherford has said he believes the unilateral decision to move HSS and close the club in the meantime was unfair.

“It seems a bit extreme to explore the displacement of the fly field before you have exhausted the option of regulating it at its current site,” he said.

In the end, the commissioners voted 4-1 (Vallarta opposed) to recommend to city council that members of the Soaring Society work with city staff to implement restrictions and changes that would significantly reduce impacts but would continue to let the club use the western part of the park while the feasibility of relocation was considered.

Club members have been encouraged, in the meantime, to seek nonprofit status and consider how their activities could create public benefit.

A favorable council vote would be required before the Harbor Soaring Society is allowed to return to Fairview Park. Council will hear the question at a future meeting.

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