Let this be your cautionary tale against building a pretty waterfront park on a landfill. At Cesar Chavez Park on the Berkeley Marina, squirrels and gophers are burrowing through old trash, turning the ground into toxin-leaching swiss cheese. Poison from the estimated 1.9 million tons of residential, commercial, and industrial waste is now leaching into the San Francisco Bay.
Humans on the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board won't have it anymore, and they've launched an all-out war on the rodents. The offending squirrels and gophers will be trapped and "abated." Past efforts to reduce the the park's rodent population by building habitats to lure in owls and raptors have so far failed, so it's come to extermination.
A map of San Francisco with areas now landfilled in pink via KQED
Like many coastal communities, the land around San Francisco Bay has been dramatically augmented by trash. When real estate is scarce but trash is abundant, making land out of landfill makes a certain kind of logical sense. But animals have their own way of reshaping the landscape, and they feel no need to let buried trash lie.
According to the SF Chronicle, though, animals don't appear to be disturbing other landfill sites around the bay. "For some reason, the ground squirrels in Berkeley are invasive," said Lindsay Whalin, an engineering geologist with the water board, to the paper. Is now a good time to make a Berzerkeley joke? [San Francisco Chronicle]
Top image of Cesar Chavez Park by orphanjones/Flickr