The Zero-Trash K9

Bigges the litter-retrieving Australian Shepherd.
Bigges the litter-retrieving Australian Shepherd.

Three years ago, Diane Petersen was hiking up the well-worn trail of Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont. Accompanying her was her dog Bigges, a two-year-old Australian shepherd.

Bigges was a relative newcomer to the idea of trekking up peaks, and was, by Petersen’s recounting, “kind of bored by hiking.” To make matters worse, his elder companion, the border collie Josie, was not present. Nevertheless, Bigges walked on, all the while wishing that the hike were over. Then Petersen threw a rock at the slope to her right, and Bigges’ life changed forever.

Today, Bigges is a celebrity in the East Bay Regional Park District. He was the subject of one of EBRPD’s most popular Facebook posts. In May, Bigges and Petersen were honored by the Park District Board for their service to our open spaces. The beloved pooch followed that up with a cover appearance and story in the 2016 summer issue of “Compass,” the official magazine for EBRPD’s members. And almost every day, hikers in Mission Peak, the Alameda Creek Trail, Coyote Hills, and many other East Bay parks get to witness his inspirational feats, and invariably burst into applause.

What does Bigges do to garner such recognition? Simple. He leaves no trace, cleans up our parks, and has a blast while doing it.

Bigges, quite by accident, has been trained to pick up plastic water bottles discarded in creeks, crevices, hills, and valleys in our regional parks.

When he was teething, Petersen gave him plastic bottles to chew onto distract him from chewing on her shoes and furniture. Tugging on them soon became his favorite pastime, and today, picking up discarded plastic bottles is still second nature to him.

BiggesBottlePic
Bigges playing a uniquely helpful game of fetch.

So when Petersen throws a rock at a plastic bottle, he runs over and grabs it. “It’s hard to stop him,” said Petersen. “Whenever he sees a water bottle he’ll go out and grab it.” Further training that channeled Bigges’ love of food now motivates him to give Petersen the plastic bottle in exchange for a yummy treat.

“He loves it,” said Petersen. “He thinks it’s great fun. He has a blast.”

Instead of ignoring this ability, or maybe even making Bigges unlearn it, Petersen decided to utilize it in an all-out effort to clean up our open spaces. Even before she had dogs, Petersen did her part to pick up litter and leave no trace. Now, she and Bigges visit Mission Peak, Garin Regional Park, and many of the other trash-filled parks and preserves in the East Bay, seven days a week. The duo always finds something to clean up. They also unvaryingly find tons of appreciation from fellow hikers.

“A lot of times when people see him they clap and seem amazed and go ‘What a good dog!’” said Petersen.  “And I say, ‘yeah, he’s trying to keep the trails clean.’”

In March, EBRPD noticed Bigges when Petersen made some suggestions to the District for a possible bottle exchange program, and included some pictures of the dog in her message. The District, inspired by the photos, asked Petersen if they could feature Bigges in a Facebook post. She assented, and the overwhelming response to the post led to the District promoting Bigges’ story even further. In May, Board President Doug Siden gave Petersen and Bigges a certificate of appreciation; Bigges was also recognized as a Leave No Trace superhero and given a dog-sized cape. He’s also an unofficial celebrity amongst frequent hikers in the East Bay.

BiggesTrashPic
Bigges’ trash haul.

But Petersen isn’t letting Bigges’ sudden fame distract from the true prize: a trash-free Bay.

“It just feels like the Bay Area is pretty darn trashy,” she sighs. “And I know it’s hard on all kinds of species that live out there, the fishermen that go out there, all kinds of different things out in the Bay.”

She pauses. “There’s just so much trash.”

And although committed individuals like Petersen and Bigges are doing all they can, the Bay won’t get cleaned until we all help out.

That’s why Petersen hopes that Bigges’ story will inspire us to go out and clean up after ourselves.

“I feel there are a lot of humans out there who believe we’re the mightiest creatures of all, and my thinking is that if a dog can help keep this place as beautiful as it once was – I feel that if a dog can pick up trash, we humans can do the same thing,” said Petersen.

“I walk along the Alameda Creek, Hayward Shoreline, Coyote Hills, and when it’s low tide, I can just see the trash and I know it’s bad for the animals that live there, for the shorebirds, for the fish, and for our animals – our dogs that swim out in the Bay.

“I know that’s not a good thing, so Bigges and I are doing our part, and I just hope that we can lead by example, and that if everyone pitches in, our parks in the Bay Area will remain beautiful. We get to use these places for free, and what they give us for our physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing is priceless. And the least we can do is try to give back, do our part, and keep it as beautiful as we found it.”

Petersen and Bigges are working hard, but they can’t rid the Bay of trash alone. Help them today.


Pledge your support for a trash-free SF Bay.
 

News of the Bay: March 28, 2014

Check out this edition of News of the Bay for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

3/20/2014
San Jose Mercury News
Photos of 30-day trek on San Francisco Bay Trail capture its many wonders
Kurt Schwabe had just been laid off from a dead-end job when he decided to start walking.
Not just any kind of walking — purposeful walking.
“What I really wanted to do was expand the tools that I feel I’m best at, writing and photography, and I love to be outdoors. I wanted to help make a difference about something,” he says.
And that’s how he found himself spending the entire month of June walking the 330 miles of the San Francisco Bay Trail, a still-uncompleted project that began in 1997 and that runs through 47 cities in all nine Bay Area counties.
Read more>>

newspaper

3/20/2014
San Francisco Magazine
History Written in Water
San Francisco Bay is clearer than it has been since the gold rush. Its waters are less muddy, and much of the befouling sediment that formerly covered the bay floor has washed away into the Pacific.
Good news, right? Wrong. Actually, the fact that the bay’s water is more transparent than it has been in 150 years is causing some serious problems, a development that is both unexpected and deeply ironic. The silt that until recently muddied the bay was created by what has always, and rightly, been considered California’s first and worst environmental disaster: hydraulic mining. By 1853, panning for gold was no longer profitable, so miners began using water cannons to blast away riverbanks and entire mountains. The amount of sand and dirt blown loose was inconceivable: One geologist estimated it at one and a half billion cubic yards, or eight times more than the material removed to build the 48-mile-long Panama Canal. So vast was the quantity of sediment that the mighty Sacramento River’s bed was raised 13 feet at the capital.|
Read more>>

3/24/2014
New York Times
Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes
A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel.
The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.
Read more>>

3/25/2014
San Jose Mercury News
South Bay Passenger Rail Corridor Proposed for Moving Crude Oil
The tracks that carry Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains through about a dozen heavily populated East Bay and South Bay communities could become a rail superhighway for potentially explosive crude oil transports to Central California under a plan by the Phillips 66 oil company, Berkeley officials warn.
A project at Phillips 66’s Santa Maria refinery would enable it to receive crude oil from North American sources that are served by rail, according to a draft environmental report under review by San Luis Obispo County.
Read more>>

3/27/2014
CBS Local
California Drought Creating Toxic Clams in San Francisco Bay
California’s ongoing drought is affecting much more than just drinking water supplies as scientists are looking into how declining rainfall may be increasing the toxicity of the San Francisco Bay.
With less water flowing into the bay during the drought, there is an increase in naturally occurring toxins—materials which are then ingested by all kinds of creatures, including the overbite clams, which are non-native to the ecosystem, and then move up the food chain.
Read more>>

Cargill threatens regional agencies over SF Bay salt pond map

Redwood City Salt Ponds
Does this site look ‘urbanized’ to you?

You may not have heard about Cargill’s controversial plan to build a new city on restorable salt ponds in San Francisco Bay for a while. But the company recently threatened and misled Bay Area regional planners into incorrectly designating Redwood City salt pond properties as “urbanized” areas. Clearly, Cargill was after yet another way to justify developing this important open space.

Fortunately, Save The Bay beat back this underhanded effort by the largest privately held US company.

Here’s what happened:

For years, Bay Area cities and agencies have been shaping an ambitious project called Plan Bay Area, intended to address growth and transportation at a regional level. The plan included maps of the Bay that correctly showed salt ponds in Redwood City and Newark as open space.

Before the plan was adopted, however, Cargill submitted a letter threatening public agencies with legal action over those maps. Cargill brazenly claimed there are no “significant restrictions [that] exist on the current and future use of these properties.” That isn’t true, but soon a new draft of the plan was released, and it included maps depicting the salt ponds as “urbanized.”

Contrary to Cargill’s claim, there are many significant protections on the Redwood City salt ponds. They are designated as open space in Redwood City’s general plan and in Cargill’s contract with the state of California under the Williamson Act; and many state and federal laws protect the Bay.

Thanks to vigilant Save The Bay supporters like you, we caught wind of Cargill’s sneaky move – and we reached out to our allies and supporters to ensure the maps were fixed, just days before the final plan was approved. It was a close call, but swift action by our Save The Bay policy team prevented this important open space from coming one step closer to development. We know that Cargill will stop at nothing to clear their way to build homes on these below sea level, restorable ponds. And we need all the help we can get to continue to block their moves.

It is astonishing that, after benefiting from dramatically reduced taxes for decades in exchange for preserving the areas as open space, Cargill shamelessly bullied Bay Area public officials with false claims and threats of legal action.

Cargill is demonstrating yet again that they aren’t listening to the community in Redwood City and throughout the Bay Area.

Won’t you please stand with us again today with a special gift to help us block the Cargill threat? With your support we will remain vigilant against Cargill and work to ensure that San Francisco Bay salt ponds are restored—not paved over for development.

Want to learn more about why the Redwood City salt ponds are important to the Bay? See our slideshow profiling some of the more than 24,800 shorebirds that call the ponds home.

Weekly Roundup | April 12, 2013

newspaperCheck out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay.

San Mateo Daily Journal 4/5/13
OP-ED: Imagine the Bay Area without CEQA
The two of us remember the challenges that faced our state before 1970, the year the California Environmental Quality Act was enacted. We are disturbed by recent proposals to weaken this landmark legislation, which has served as the cornerstone of California’s environmental protection laws.  While the challenges facing the environment are different today (in fact, they are probably even more difficult), the need for CEQA is as strong as it was in 1970. We cannot forget the reasons that led to our state’s hard-won environmental safeguards. Those reasons still exist.
Read More>>

Oakland Tribune 4/9/13
Reform of California’s Landmark Environmental Law is on Life Support
Proponents of what reformers call CEQA “modernization” appeared to be on track until Michael Rubio, a Democratic senator from Bakersfield who had been shepherding reform legislation as chairman of a key environmental committee, resigned from the Legislature six weeks ago to become a Chevron lobbyist. He was replaced by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who told this newspaper he’s open to improving CEQA but has “no desire to change the fundamental law passed 40 years ago.”
Read More>>

Capitol Weekly 4/9/13
Scaling down the big one?
The nature of one of the most ambitious public works projects in California’s history resides in the detail.  And more details are emerging.  The newly-released, preliminary planning documents for the $18 billion Delta tunnels project include a detailed analysis of how the plan would affect the Delta’s ecosystem and the 57 fish, wildlife and plant species that it’s designed to protect, plus additional details on how the project would be managed.
Read More>>

SF Examiner 4/7/13
Another piece of Presidio’s transformation coming together
The southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge will be completely transformed when it’s completed in 2015, and with it will come a new look for The City’s northern waterfront.  The rebuild of Doyle Drive is bringing new parkland and pedestrian access between Crissy Field and the Main Post of the Presidio, a former Army base. The seismically unsafe roadway is being replaced by a pair of tunnels, and they will be covered with greenery.
Read More>>

Redwood City-Woodside Patch 4/8/2013
Pedestrian Bridge to Inner Bair Island to Open Mid-April
The Inner Bair Island pedestrian bridge, and a small poriton of the trail, is set to open within the next couple of weeks, according to Eric Mruz, refuge manager for the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The project has been in the works for the past few years and is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s effort to restore 1,400 acres of Bair Island to its natural condition as tidal wetlands.  Mruz said there will most likely be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with a talk about the restoration, with involvement from the project’s partners.  A big event will happen in the fall or spring once the rest of the graveled trail opens and the work crew finishes constructing two viewing platforms, he said.
See photos of the progress here>>

 

We Popped the Question!

Will You Be For The Bay?Well it finally happened.  We’ve been thinking about it for over a year.  And last Thursday we popped the question.

“Will you be For The Bay?”

And the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Thousands of Bay Area residents are saying  they’re For The Bay by going to our new website at www.forthebay.org and clicking through to get a free For The Bay sticker.   And we’ve been getting some great questions around what this new project is, and what you can do to support a healthy and vibrant Bay for our generation and the next.  Here’s the skinny:

For The Bay is a new initiative of Save The Bay.  For the past half-century, Save The Bay has been the leading regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay, since 1961.  But as new threats to the Bay emerge, and with global changes like sea level rise and the increased risk of severe storms, we need to take things in a new direction – and soon.

Our goal in starting For The Bay is simple.  While 9 in 10 people in our communities get that the Bay is critical to our quality of life, only a small fraction of residents ever take action to support the Bay.  For The Bay aims to change that, with dozens of easy opportunities for more folks to show their enthusiasm and passion for the Bay.

Beyond the substantial environmental benefits of taking new action to restore the Bay, this is also a critical component of protecting our low-lying communities from the risks posed by severe storms and rising sea levels.  Wetlands provide significant flood control benefits to neighborhoods from San Jose to Sonoma, while adjacent levees provide even further protection, which afford residents much needed public access to open spaces.

Over the next couple of years, you’ll hear and see a lot more activity with For The Bay, and we hope you’ll keep in touch with any questions or feedback you might have.