If you're heading out to hike, jog or walk your dog in the the Acalanes or Sugarloaf open spaces this weekend, watch out for those animals that go "moo." Okay, I'm sensationalizing things a tad, but the city is concerned about interactions between cattle allowed to graze in these open spaces and the increasing number of humans visiting them.
"The city may be in an awkward position of inviting the public into recreation areas to enjoy the natural environment while introducing cattle into those same areas which can present a threat to personal safety."
City Staff are asking the Parks and Recreation Commission, at its meeting 7 p.m. Monday, to eliminate grazing in these open spaces after the 2010 grazing season.
Just some background, which you can read about on the agenda for the commission's meeting:
Cattle grazed the lands of all four city open spaces before the city acquired them. Besides Acalanes and Sugarloaf, the city also operates Lime Ridge and Shell Ridge open spaces. The city decided that, as part of its management strategy to protect these natural resources, it would allow cattle grazing to continue. Two ranchers pay the city around $5,000 to allow their cattle to graze each season in Acalanes and Sugarloaf.
"While this has helped to retain an active reminder of our local history and is a strategy for weed abatement, this activity may no longer be appropriate in the face of increasing public use of the
The city, however, has received an increasing number of public service calls regarding the cattle from users in the last several years; this includes users with dogs. Investigations by ranger found that off-leash dogs have played a role in the aggressive behavior exhibited by some cattle.
Until recently, confrontations between hikers, dogs, and cattle had not resulted in visitor injuries. But that changed in 2006:
--A visitor jogging along a trail in Lime Ridge North was attacked from behind by a steer. His injuries required surgery and physical therapy. In this instance, the steer was ill and died the following day.
--In late 2007, two reports of attacks by cattle were received from the Acalanes Open Space. One of these attacks resulted in injuries which required extensive hospitalization. It is not clear why such attacks have increased in recent years.
Despite the fact that one of these attacks occurred in Lime Ridge, the city is not considering eliminating grazing there--just in the Acalanes and Sugarloaf Open Spaces, because each are less than 180 acres. "Areas where cattle can move away from visitors are limited at these two smaller preserves. Shell Ridge and Lime Ridge Open Space areas are much larger and under most circumstances, humans and cattle have the ability to avoid contact on the trails."
The city is also concerned that the grazing inteferes with other efforts at natural resource protection, notably a project to restore oak trees in these areas.