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   Pt. 2: From the 1960s through the Present Day

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"Dish" Argument Continues on New Terrain

Sudden Oak Death: New Victims


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The Trail Companion

Winter 2001

"Dish" Argument Continues on New Terrain

By Ben Crowell.

The "Dish Area" is a popular location on the Stanford campus where many students and members of the community enjoy beautiful landscape and recreational trails. The foothills have been a haven for joggers and nature-lovers for many years. Recently, however, the Dish has become entangled in a web of controversy. Due to the area's overwhelming popularity, the issue of conservation versus recreation has polarized many organizations within the community. Many joggers claim their right to explore the foothills on less-traveled paths while environmentalists fight to save the habitat of several rare species.
      In response to these issues, the University introduced a "Three-Part Conservation and Use Plan for the Stanford Dish Area" on May 2, 2000, which has since been implemented as Stanford's official policy. This plan attempts to preserve the foothills and continue recreational use. First of all, the plan designates several hundred acres of the area as preserved land for "habitat conservation." This land can be used for academic purposes but not for development of any kind. Next, the plan institutes a program of restoration.

California tiger salamander
California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense)
Photo by Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences. Source: Amphibia Web: Ambystoma californiense. Used by permission.
In other words, damaged areas will be re-vegetated and "unapproved structures" will be removed. Also, the habitats of native species will be restored and preserved (this includes vernal pools for the California Tiger Salamander). Last of all, the policy places certain limitations on recreational use. Perhaps most importantly, hiking and jogging is limited to the so-called "Dish Loop," picnics and other social events are prohibited, dogs are not permitted on the premises, and access to the dish is reduced to the hours between dawn and a half an hour before sunset.
      The University's primary goal is to reach an effective compromise between conservation and recreation. Though most recreational uses of the Dish have been limited, they have not been restricted. Also, leashed dogs were allowed on the grounds until the University learned that a majority of dogs in the foothills were running freely. The University argues that unleashed dogs pursue, frighten, and often kill small, threatened species. Current Stanford President John Hennessy states, "In a survey conducted in the summer, more dogs were off-leash than on-leash …[additionally], the California tiger salamander, which we are a host of, is a candidate for being listed as an endangered species . . . we must come up with a plan that would conserve and restore the environment of the Dish area."
      The May 2, 2000 plan has been implemented and in use since September 1. At this point, Stanford has taken the necessary steps to enforce the new policy, as well as implement a few decisions not originally included in the policy. For example, Stanford recently decided to repave the entire Dish Loop and post fifty-five signs along its edges in order to keep joggers on the main trail. Also, Stanford recently agreed to leave the foothills undeveloped for a minimum of twenty-five years. There is no disputing that the plan sacrifices, to some extent, recreation for conservation and academic use. The Plan states, "The conservation and use plan outlined here seeks to accommodate academic uses, sound conservation practices, and recreational uses. Should these interests conflict, priority will be given to conservation and academic objectives." Conservationists support Stanford's plan but assert that the May 2 policy is nothing new. According to Alan Launer of the Center for Conservation Biology, joggers have always been restricted to one main trail, and the Dish Area, contrary to popular belief, was never open after dark. However, conservationists definitely support the University's decision to ban dogs and to postpone the possibility of development for twenty-five years. They argue that unleashed dogs are a menace to the threatened species of the area, but if owners could keep their dogs on leashes, a ban would not be necessary. As far as paving the Dish Loop is concerned, many conservationists actually favor asphalt-paved trails in many instances. Some ecologists argue that asphalt trails halt erosion and prevent the spread of undesirable weed species. In addition, Mr. Launer reminds us that the University recently repaved ninety-five percent of an access road that has "been paved for decades." In other words, conservationists do not understand the recent wave of complaints over Stanford's "new" policy. They assert that most of these regulations have always been in place and that environmental protection and academic use should certainly take priority over any recreational use. Once again, Mr. Launer states, "People need to remember that the Dish is not a park. If people remember that then many of the policies make sense."

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