Viewpoint - February 2, 2011

Letter: Few consulted in decision to eradicate squirrels

Menlo Park's old Marsh Road garbage dump, which is now referred to as the old landfill, has had a long and shaky history.

When the dump closed several ideas were considered and dismissed. The first was a golf course and almost 50 years later, the last was a golf course. In between, the mounds of garbage began to look like hills and European annual grasses took hold. Australian evergreen shrubs and trees were planted that have survived with varying degrees of success. With no explanation, a palm tree and one oak have taken root.

Amongst this unlikely setting, with methane gas leaking through the cap, hopeful ground squirrels migrated from the surrounding area doing what squirrels do, digging burrows in the shallow top soil, foraging and breeding. Black-shouldered kites, redtail hawks and northern harriers came to feed on the squirrels. The squirrels and the raptors found the dump. Now the squirrels are gone or the raptors have no natural reason to be there. Let's hope the burrowing owls are not threatened.

For a measly payment of $9,750, the city hired Animal Damage Management to poison all the squirrels. Public Works felt the burrowing squirrels were a threat to the 50-year-old cap. Are trees a threat to the cap? What is known is that despite the attempts to capture the methane gas and collect the leacheate, this park is the source of the greatest volume of greenhouse gas in the city of Menlo Park. I doubt the squirrels are to blame.

We can argue about the merits of the killing and the disruption of a simple ecosystem. As the Jan. 26 Almanac editorial points out, the process by which this was accomplished was not a good one. No public notice, no hearings and it appears that there was no consultation with the Environmental Quality Commission, the Parks & Recreation Commission or Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park. Something's wrong with this picture.

Brielle Johnck, Former Menlo Park Environmental Commissioner


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