Fairview Park trail

Looking toward Jim Scott Stadium, a woman uses an unauthorized trail as she makes her way from Fairview Park onto Parsons Field. (KEVIN CHANG / Daily Pilot / August 14, 2013)

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A Fairview Park activist group is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the identity of those responsible for laying down material that encroached upon a federally protected habitat.

Friends of Fairview Nature Park is seeking the people or entities responsible for the recently un-permitted placement of decomposed granite (DG) onto two trails within the 208-acre park's southeastern edge, near Jim Scott Stadium and Parsons Field.

A portion of the DG, according to a city-commissioned report, affected one of Fairview Park's vernal pools, a wetland-like habitat that contains the San Diego fairy shrimp — an endangered species — and other wildlife.

"We believe it is vandalism to the park," said Friends of Fairview Nature Park member Brian Burnett. "We feel that the vernal pools were damaged. It's unfortunate that people haven't come forward. We just want to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

He said information can be emailed to FriendsOfFairviewNaturePark@gmail.com. If more than one person comes forward, his group will choose the person with the "best information" or potentially split the money among the informants.

"We want to solve the rest of the mystery," Burnett said. "We don't want this happening again, so it's really in the interest of finding the responsible parties. That's why we're doing this."

News of the reward comes after a Daily Pilot investigation on the matter and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's learning of the encroachment. The federal agency, which in 2007 gave Costa Mesa the authority to protect the fairy shrimp, is reviewing Costa Mesa's report on the vernal pools and is expected to issue its response to the report's mitigation proposals within about two weeks.

City CEO Tom Hatch released a statement last week saying that the vernal pools will be temporarily roped off until a mitigation solution is finalized.

On Monday, parks and recreation workers roped off the area containing the two trails and nearby vernal pools. They also locked the gate between the park and Parsons Field.

All week, the workers have also directed park users to go around the area.

Until this week, the gate was often used by children going to Estancia High School or Parsons Field — a fact not lost on critics of the environmentalists who have cried foul over the vernal pool damage. Online, critics called them "voodoo environmentalists."

Last week, emails obtained by the Pilot show that the city "mowed" one of the trails of its weeds at the request of Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger.

Mensinger has said he agrees with city officials' statements that the DG was probably laid down by volunteers or a booster group, but called the issue an overly politicized one.

"It's unfortunate that some folks have chosen to politicize a dirt path for kids," Mensinger told the Pilot last week.

Burnett countered that Friends of Fairview Nature Park is just "out to protect the park. We're politically agnostic. We just have the park's interests at hand."