The Great DG Trail Mystery Unraveled (Almost)
It seems the two issues swirling around Costa Mesa these days are the 60th Anniversary celebration scandal and the mystery of the decomposed granite path that runs along the fence separating Parsons Field/Waldorf School and Fairview Park. Let's talk about the latter, shall we?
A PAPER TRAIL, WITH GAPS
I'm in possession of an email thread that provides some clarity to how the user-defined trail evolved into a more than 8 foot wide decomposed granite path that encroaches on a federally-protected vernal pool - #6. What is missing in that email thread is what launched it in the first place and how, and who, eventually installed the DG (decomposed granite). I've been able to fill in some of the blanks.
HOW THIS BEGAN...
It seems that earlier this spring, in May, Mayor Pro Tem (and Pop Warner Booster President) Steve Mensinger verbally asked Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz if something could be done to knock down the weeds along a user-defined trail. That conversation was followed by a short email from Mensinger to Munoz asking what can be done to move it along, and included a photo of the path(below).
HERBICIDE DIDN'T DO THE TRICK
Staff replied to Munoz that herbicide had been applied but it seemed to be a less-than satisfactory solution. A week or so later the staffer was able to run a mower over the area to enhance the trail, which now became the approximately 8 foot-wide path shown below.
VOILA! A DG PATH!
The end of June I received a photograph and correspondence from a park user indicating that this mowed path now had DG installed and wondered if the city did this work, or if it even knew about it. When my correspondent approached the men spreading the DG they were confronted by them, wanting to know why they were taking photos. I forwarded the information to Munoz, who passed it along to the staffer, who subsequently acknowledged the installation of the DG and indicated that we, the city, didn't do it, but whomever did it did a good job on it. In the correspondence there is mention that "Pop Warner Boosters" did the work, but I can find nobody who can confirm that supposition.
TRAIL AND PATH ENCROACHED ON VERNAL POOL #6
Unfortunately, the new path - and the mowed path before it - significantly encroached the unmarked borders of Vernal Pool #6. You can see the boundaries marked with yellow flags. In fact, the original trail also encroached on those boundaries, too. The boundaries were never marked - according to councilwoman Sandra Genis, part of our deal with the federal government was that we would not only identify and protect the borders of ALL vernal pools in Fairview Park, but would also delineate a 10 foot buffer zone around each one to protect them - and that contributed to the encroachment in this case.
It seems to me that an error by city staff probably contributed to the initial mowing of the path, which was exacerbated by some group of people who, without permission or permits, overlaid the DG on the newly-mowed path. Unfortunately, neither Mensinger nor those who did the DG work have had the courage to step up and say, "Yeah, I did it!" That's a shame.
Now the City is trying to resolve the problem. It has hired LSA Associates who has provided a biologist to mark the boundaries of ALL vernal pools presently unprotected on both sides of Plancentia Avenue, including Vernal Pool #6. As part of their actions they have prepared a memo to the city which includes four options to the remediation of the encroachment on Vernal Pool #6. You can read a section of that memo in the image below. Click on it to enlarge it.
WAITING FOR THE FEDS
This memo has been sent to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for their review. Munoz expects to hear back from that organization within a few weeks. At that point, action will be taken based on the USFWS decision to mitigate the damage.
Based only on the choices shown above, it seems to me that the better of the four is #4, which involves "relocating" Vernal Pool #6 to a nearby location - probably contiguous with the much larger Vernal Pool #5. That will involve grading the new location to ensure water flows into it, then scraping the dirt which contains the critters presently dormant at that location and transplanting it into the "new" pool.
NO WORD ON DAMAGES
We don't know yet if the federal government, through the USFWS, will seek any kind of punitive damages for the encroachment on the vernal pool.
I'm disappointed that this whole thing happened, but more disappointed that our mayor pro tem doesn't have the guts to admit his part in this whole mess. It's hard to measure a man's character while he's on the campaign trail. It's only when he's in office - and in a position to do significant damage - that this kind of thing turns out up.
STEP UP, STEVE!
So, I'm asking him - and any of his cronies that may have participated in this situation - to step up and offer to assist in the remediation measures, whatever they might be. I'm not asking them to pay a fine if one is imposed by the federal government. I am asking them to participate in cleaning up the mess they helped cause. I'm asking Mensinger to step and be a man...
A "CART PATH"?
Incidentally, I've heard a rumor that a football booster organization may be offering "preferred parking" at the Waldorf School parking lot for games at Estancia High School, which includes being ferried up the hill to the stadium in golf carts - along that nice, new DG path. I tried to verify that rumor but have had no success so far. If any reader knows more about it please let me know via the email address on the profile page of this blog.