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Plans Still Lacking for Reopening O'Neill Park

January 07, 1987|GORDON GRANT | Times Staff Writer

Plans still have not been worked out for reopening O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon, closed since Dec. 26 after numerous mountain lion tracks were found in sections heavily used by visitors and one animal was seen by a woman camper, park officials said Tuesday.

"It could be a week, or it could be more than a month before we have formulated an operational plan and gotten it approved by the Board of Supervisors before the park could be reopened," said Tim Miller, manager of regional facilities for the county's Parks and Recreation Department.

"I just have no idea when we'll reopen. We haven't got the plan yet, and when we do, we have to get on the board's agenda, and I hate to even guess when that might be."

Harold J. Krizan, director of the parks department, was a little more optimistic, saying he hoped to have a plan to present to the board "by next week anyway."

Difference Between Two Parks

Both men have explained that although Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano, scene of mountain lion attacks on two children last year, was reopened last Friday under new visiting rules, the same rules cannot be applied to O'Neill because of differences between the parks.

Caspers is what its name implies, a wilderness park, spread out over 7,500 acres and attracting only about 62,000 visitors a year with very few amenities. O'Neill, however, has only 2,169 acres with annual attendance of more than 160,000 and many picnic and camping sites.

Krizan and Miller said fresh mountain lion tracks have been found at O'Neill almost every day since the park was evacuated and closed the day after Christmas. In addition, on Dec. 29, a woman who had returned to the park to retrieve her camping trailer saw a lion not far from the main gate.

Under the new rules at Caspers, children are not allowed on hiking trails but only in picnic sites and at the visitors' center, while adults must sign papers saying they are aware of the potential dangers posed by cougars, rattlesnakes and other elements in the wilderness park.

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