By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry because the Twin Lakes Freedom Park in Garden Grove is about to get a controversial makeover. The 23-acre park – second largest in the city – will soon be transformed into less of a water feature and more of a traditional recreation area.
The park is located at the southwest corner of Haster Street and Lampson Avenue in the city’s east side. Dedicated in 1977, the park is a joint venture of Orange County Flood Control and the City of Garden Grove.
Plans recently approved call for reducing the water area and filling in much of what was once a lake for soccer fields.
“The problem is that the lakes never really worked as flood control,” according to William Murray, public works director for the City of Garden Grove.
The primary purpose of what is also known as Haster Basin is to keep the area from being inundated in event of a major flood.
But without adequate and modern pumping facilities, the basin is simply a large pond, or two small lakes, officials feel.
A visit to the park shows its challenges and virtues. It is one of the few semi-natural places left in Garden Grove. Home to various kinds of birds, especially water fowl, it’s ringed by a jogging or walking path which is enjoyed by some area residents. The basin is somewhat split by a naturally bridged “island,” and there are shady trees, picnic benches and a playground area.
On the other hand, the park is somewhat run-down. Concrete sidewalks are split, with jagged slabs of concrete jutting up. There’s trash in the water and graffiti smeared across the dedication monument. Because of the lack of lighting – and the below-street level of the park’s lakes – it’s acquired a reputation for mischief.
“A lot of bad things have happened there,” said Murray.
The $27 million project, funded by the county, could bring benefits to the community. Two or three soccer fields will spring up.
“There’s a lot of demand for soccer fields in the city, especially in that part of town,” said Kimberly Huy, community services director for Garden Grove.
Another benefit would be financial. Once the upgrading of the flood control aspect of Haster Basin is completed, it will help toward the goal of having the area removed from the Santa Ana River Flood Plain.
By law, all properties within the flood plain are required to have flood insurance. This project, along with some others, could eliminate that mandate and save property owners some money.
But not everyone is convinced. “There’s been a lot of opposition from people in the area,” said Murray. A group called Stop The Haster Basin Plan has been battling the proposal and has a website and Facebook page aimed at halting or at least changing the project.
“Everyone enjoys the park and clear air with a fresh wilderness atmosphere,” reads an entry on the site, which goes on to argue that the present pumping facilities are adequate.
Construction on the project could begin in a few months, and the park could be closed for as long as two years. Plans call for some wetlands area to be preserved, so that ducks and geese may eventually be back at a different and perhaps cleaner and busier park.