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New Nature Center deal with Caltrans given okay

Caltrans 1971 MUTCD G27-1

Caltrans 1971 MUTCD G27-1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Randy Economy

Due to the massive freeway reconstruction going through Norwalk even its long time nature center has to make room for the new concrete super highway.

On  Tuesday night, the city council approved a plan with Caltrans that will ensure that open space land for the Nature Center located at Norwalk Park will be able to be maintained in that area within “reasonable proximity” of the current spot.

Norwalk Park is going to be significantly reduced in size and land due to the freeway expansion that includes the Nature Center, open lawn area, the parking lot serving the Norwalk Arts and Sports Complex, the Aquatic Center, and the Teen Center.

Assistant City Manager Tom Lynch told city council members on Tuesday that the construction will “drastically reduce the programming area for the City’s overall recreational needs.”

“Staff has been in negotiations with Caltrans representatives to examine ways in which the parkland can be preserved in order to not diminish this vital community resource,” Lynch said.

“Norwalk is a highly urbanized community with limited recreational open space,” Lynch stressed in his report.

He said that the Norwalk General Plan calls for Caltrans to either propose a functional replacement of the parkland in lieu of payment of the fair market value for subject property interests.  The plan would allow the replacement of facilities and that would remain under the ownership of Norwalk city residents and taxpayers.

“Caltrans has informed the City of its right to an estimate of just compensation based on an appraisal of fair market value and of the option to choose either just compensation or functional replacement,” Lynch said in his report.

The functional replacement is considered to be independent of any type of relocation assistance associated for the temporary and permanent location of the animals and the Norwalk Nature Center facilities.

The easterly portion of Norwalk Park is where the facility is located.

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