Costa Mesa mom Dawn Sarkisian regularly visits the city’s TeWinkle Park so her two young daughters can walk among the lakes and ponds and see the migratory waterfowl, turtles, and other wildlife that live there.
Inaugurated in 1965, the 49-acre park is known for its man-made water features, including two lakes divided by a land bridge and adjacent by ponds whose contents flow into waterfall outlets, creating a circulatory system on the property.
Hundreds of geese and ducks roam the Arlington Drive area, barely shying away from passing cars and approaching visitors in search of food, although feeding the wildlife is prohibited. It’s a pretty idyllic scene, with a few exceptions.
“The poop situation — it’s not ideal,” Sarkisian said of the feces that adorn hiking trails scattered across the park’s thick lawns and along the lake bottom. “We just tell the kids to go around it.”
Poop is just part of an ongoing problem at TeWinkle Park, where the lakes leak 18 to 24 inches of water each month, causing erosion and instability in the soil and the shorelines around them and requiring replenishment.
Pumps serving the water circulation system are not working and need repair, while water quality has suffered from algal blooms caused by poor circulation and “excessive nutrient supply,” said Rob Ryan, maintenance services manager.
“It’s gotten worse over time,” Ryan said. “We used to have circulating jets that would sit in the water and move things around. But air got into the system and threatened the pumps, so the pumps are now off.”
Along the shared 3,000-meter coastline, pale green, algae-laden foam collects in crevices where the water is not displaced by the still-functioning fountains and jets, creating additional work for maintenance personnel. Turtles bask on circulation pipes that are detached from the bottom of the lake once underwater.
To clear things up, city officials are planning $2 million in upgrades, including a redesign of the lakes and ponds, new pumps and the addition of an ozone water treatment system.
Costa Mesa City Council approved a $120,425 contract in December with Fountain Valley-based Pacific Advanced Civil Engineering (PACE) to draft a vision for the improvements.
Part of that vision includes creating habitats attractive enough to prevent birds from congregating in areas used by the public, Ryan said.
“Now they go where they want,” he said. “Some of the design options include adding natural barriers to direct the waterfowl into one area as much as possible.”
PACE consultant Andy Komor explained at a July 28 meeting of the city’s Parks, Arts and Community Services Commission that the overarching goals are to minimize water loss, improve flow and quality, and manage waterfowl naturally.
Consultants compare two scenarios to achieve those goals. Both involve building a shoreline and spreading polyethylene liners along the bottom of the lake. But one eliminates a small island in the center of the southernmost lake, which contains several mature trees, while the other retains it.
“It’s a big park. And there’s only 2 acres of water there,” said Komor, preferring the first option. “We want water to look as big as possible and also as deep and clear as it can be.”
To complete the project, lakes and ponds must be alternately drained and wildlife must be moved temporarily. Ryan said he is hopeful that once a budget is in place, work could begin next year.
For Sarkisian, who had to shake the wheels of her 3-year-old daughter Charlie’s scooter from mud and mud on Monday, doing something about the water would be an improvement.
“That would be very nice,” she said. “The water is so dirty and it’s full of bird droppings. So if you walk past the fountain and it sprays on you, you think it’s beautiful, but it’s also dirty.”
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