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Indian site experts at odds

Experts weighed in on Fairview Park's archaeological significance Wednesday evening, with one speaker urging preservation and another expressing more skepticism as to what's underneath the ground.

The park's citizens advisory committee met in the Neighborhood Community Center in a session that attracted some 75 attendees. The 208-acre park in Costa Mesa contains the Fairview Indian Site, an archaeological remnant of a Native American village that's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. Nothing of the site survives above ground.

Some experts have contended that the site, officially known as CA-ORA-58, might be negatively affected by a planned turnaround space at the end of Pacific Avenue within the park's southwestern edge.

Cal State Fullerton anthropology professor Steven James, in a presentation titled "What lies beneath the Earth at Fairview Park," said the Fairview Indian Site is a rarity in Orange County and the state.

The site contains mysterious cogged stones, which have also been found at nearby Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach.

James contended that Fairview Park's archaeological resources have been poorly managed over the years. The Fairview Indian Site in particular, he said, has bicycle ramps, trails and soil containing various forms of debris above it.

Various small developments at or near ORA-58 — including fence posts along the bluff, benches and signage — were added by the city, James said, without proper archaeological site monitoring.

Preservation is the best solution for the site, James said, and once destroyed, it cannot be recreated.

He urged having the site capped by a team of specialists, reconstructing a prehistoric house somewhere in the park — not on the Fairview Indian Site itself — and creating an area specifically for Native American gatherings and rituals.

He also asked that the dirt bike ramps be removed from the site. City officials have said they are among the unpermitted developments that have appeared throughout the park.

Representatives from Scientific Resource Surveys Inc. also spoke about their work in the park. The Orange firm was recently hired by the city to investigate concerns about the Fairview Indian Site and any negative effects the Pacific Avenue turnaround might have on it.

Henry Koerper, a member of the SRS team who has previously done extensive work at the site, said the turnaround is well beyond the site's previously identified core and periphery.

"That doesn't mean there isn't something that is significant" at the turnaround site, Koerper said.

He stressed that during any construction of the turnaround, Native Americans will be consulted and present on site, as will archaeologists.

"If anything that turns up is kind of exciting, work is going to stop," Koerper said.

SRS project manager Destiny Colocho said the project is being done in accordance with state and federal laws.

Her firm is doing a surface-level survey of the area and an extensive compilation of past historical, archaeological and paleontological research on the Fairview Indian Site. It will not involve excavation or other digging work.

SRS' project is similar to a 2003 study of the park's cultural resource findings, Colocho said. Therefore, it is only appropriate for the city to doing another such study 10 years later, she said.

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