Cambrian: Opinion

Mutt mitts are just part of keeping Ranch trails clean

The trails on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve are open again, and many of them are freshly chipped thanks to volunteers.
The trails on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve are open again, and many of them are freshly chipped thanks to volunteers.

Cambrians don’t have to go to distant places in search of “the wide open spaces” to find wilderness. We have it in our own neighborhoods. All you have to do is walk out your front door to enjoy the Monterey pine and oak covered lot next door or the wild roses down the street a short way — a little bit of the wild close to home.

Walk a little farther, and you enter a world where you can still find the magic of raw nature hidden in parts of Strawberry Canyon, Fern Canyon or our wonderful Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

The trails on the preserve are open again, and many of them are freshly chipped thanks to CCSD crews and FFRP volunteers. Go out into nature. Listen to the ocean, the sound of the wind in the grass or a trickling spring. Breathe deeply and enjoy the scent of wet grass, the duff on the forest floor or the fresh ocean air. An open mind can invite the wilderness in as you imagine yourself alone in the forest, even while surrounded by the roughly 6,000 inhabitants of Cambria.

Open to the public, the Ranch sees a lot of human activity, and to save what we can of our wild areas, care needs to be taken that you leave the Ranch as you find it (or better). Let “no trace left behind” be your mantra. Just as you wouldn’t throw your candy bar wrappers on the ground in your own bit of nature, you shouldn’t leave dog waste wherever it lands. Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve has been providing Mutt Mitt dog waste bags for the Preserve for about 10 years to take care of this increasing problem.

There are many good reasons to encourage people to pick up after their pets by providing mutt mitts:

▪  Removing pet waste prevents reinfestation of dogs from exposure to infective worm eggs and larvae.

▪  Their use helps protect the wild animal population from any dog-borne diseases.

▪  Dog feces can transmit diseases from dogs to people, too. Roundworm, hookworm and other parasitic worms causing Ocular larva migrans, an eye disease, may be transmitted to those exposed to dirt where dog feces are present. Dog excrement also contains some nasty pathogens like Giardia, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and Toxocara canis.

▪  Animal waste is a contributor to storm water pollution, running into our creeks and ocean. The use of dog waste bags helps keep protected Steelhead, red-legged frog and other aquatic population of Santa Rosa Creek healthy by keeping the creek water clean.

▪  Water carrying pet waste contains disease carrying bacteria and toxins that can increase the risk of viral infections, flu and skin rashes for swimmers near storm drain outlets.

▪  Dog feces are not a part of nature along hiking trails or in open areas.

▪  Picking up after your pet makes walking a much more pleasant experience for everyone, including pet owners.

▪  Dog waste can really mess up a perfectly good pair of shoes!

We have the needed volunteers to keep the dispensers on the Ranch stocked. About 80,000 bags are provided each year to pet owners who walk on the Ranch. But the mutt mitts alone can’t solve the problems that our canine friends leave behind, if the bags are not picked up and placed in the trash.

I’m baffled as to why so many bags of waste are left along the trails. The bags are compostable and break down in the sun, so bagging and leaving it by the trail or throwing it in the bushes defeats the purpose of keeping the property clean and healthy for all.

In order for the mutt mitt bags to effectively do their job they and their contents need to be packed off of the Ranch and put into the waste bins provided at most entrances. The bags, if left on the Ranch, become litter.

Jo Ellen Butler is executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Ranch Update appears quarterly and is special to The Cambrian.

Coming up

▪  “Historical and Current Day Plant Uses” — 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 25. Join local naturalist Al Normandin as he identifies and talks about historical and current uses of plants for medicine, food, and every day living, as well as those toxic plants to avoid. Please, no dogs. Reservations required. cambriaranchwalks.com or 805-927-2202.

▪  Great Kitchens of Cambria Self-Guided Tour & Progressive Gourmet Tasting — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 29. Visit six unique and wonderful kitchens, each full of inspiring ideas and enjoy an epic progressive feast of small plates, wine and beer. Visit ffrpcambria.org/store to pre-order tickets now. This is a sellout event each year. Proceeds benefit the Ranch.

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