September 28, 1995
Re: Dogs and People in Our Parks
There is an ancient controversy about the proper use of parks. Are parks for people, or for wildlife? Since wildlife are never at the table, and can't vote, humans always "win" this argument (by default). But aren't urban parks for people? Who defined them as such? People, of course. So we win. QED.
Don't forget that we stole all of our park land from wildlife. We humans get together to decide how we will divide up "our" land. Wildlife, if they are considered at all, are nearly always just an afterthought. Give them the crumbs.
Homeless people were justly driven from Golden Gate Park, but for the wrong reasons: We should provide them a safe place to live, but not at the expense of wildlife! No matter how bad off humans are, wildlife are in a much worse position. We are driving about 100 species per day extinct, worldwide. We have driven numerous species (locally) extinct in the Bay Area, and hundreds more are headed that way. Are we going to continue squeezing them until they have no place to live? Many species can live only in a small section of the Bay Area, such as on Mt. Bruno or in other parts of San Francisco. Are we so selfish that we are going to take every square inch of the Bay Area for ourselves? At least in our parks, let us keep human access and artifacts to a bare minimum! Otherwise, the parks will lose the very wildlife (i.e., all nonhuman, nondomesticated species) that make them attractive to us!
Dog owners want to let their dogs run free in the Berkeley Waterfront. Once again, the needs of wildlife are not being considered. It is unfortunate that dog owners have let the dog population get so huge that the city cannot possibly accommodate them. I feel sorry for any dog that is forced to live in a city. It is bad enough for humans, but worse for dogs. However, this is no excuse to force the wildlife who have prior claim to this habitat to give it up for the sake of overfertile humans and dogs.
The Emeryville Crescent (a so-called "wildlife sanctuary") is, as I speak, being destroyed (as viable habitat) so that humans can save a few minutes driving to work (while avoiding the use of feet, bicycles, buses, trains, and ferries that could get them there in much more comfort).
People's Park in Berkeley is misnamed. Its first, principal, most numerous, and most deserving residents are wildlife. If we are going to continue having wildlife, they must be given priority. All parks should be Wildlife Parks, where humans are at most unobtrusive visitors.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.