“They were spraying in front of us and behind us and there were ‘No’ signs posted, and the area was not taped off to keep us off the trail,” said Jackson Hefti, adding Ryan “asked the contractors to stop spraying until we left the area.”
They did not.
The incident motivated them to set out on a quest, which they’re calling “Campaign Non Toxic San Diego.” The pair are now lobbying the City and County of San Diego to adapt an integrative pest management strategy, similar to one in Irvine, Calif., which replaces commonly used herbicides and pesticides containing cancer-linked glyphosate with other, safer organic products.
Discovered in 1970 by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz, glyphosate is an herbicide used to kill weeds that inhibits plant enzymes. Monsanto brought it to market for agricultural use in 1974 under the trade name Roundup.
Noting her 10-year-old dog is now ill with a tumor, Jackson Hefti acknowledged it’s uncertain whether her pet’s illness is connected or not with the alleged herbicide contamination. Nonetheless, she added her research has shown, “There is a lot nastier stuff then glyphosate out there.”
Hence, her campaign has morphed into “Campaign Non Toxic San Diego,” embracing the policies Irvine has already enacted dealing with potentially dangerous herbicide chemicals.
“I created a new petition change.org/p/kevinfaulconer-sandiego-gov-non-toxic-san-diego-campaign," said Jackson Hefti. As of May 6, more than 240 people had signed the non-toxic petition, whose goal is to secure 500 signatures.
Habitat West is the licensed pest control operator contracting with the City to do work in Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. The scope of work, at an estimated $1.7 million cost during 260 working days, is to include: improvements to 1.82 miles of pedestrian trails and observation points; installation of a pedestrian bridge; recontouring of an existing baseball field: and removal of nonnative plants and trees in implementing a 51-acre park revegetation program.
“The project has a biologist specifically overseeing this work and the application of the herbicide to ensure that it’s being applied per the contract requirements,” said City spokesperson Alec Phillipp. “As part of these requirements, crews have maintained storm water pollution measures that prevent water runoff and spray drift from leaving the site.
“All of the work is being done in accordance with, and guided by, the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Master Plan, which does not specify that herbicides should not be used in the removal of invasive species throughout the park,” Phillipp said.
Phillipp said herbicide use is expected to decrease throughout the five-year maintenance and monitoring period as the native plants are able to grow and naturally compete on their own.
“It appears that the initial herbicide application at the site has been successful in controlling this winter’s crop of annual weeds and therefore subsequent applications in this phase will be substantially reduced and limited to spot treatments,” added Phillipp.
Jackson Hefti noted their anti-toxicity campaign originally started out just to “ban glyphosate from Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.” She has shared that on social media sites, as well as passing out flyers at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, OB Dog beach and in local surf and coffee shops. She’s also gone viral with video footage she and Ryan took that day of herbicide spraying going on at Sunset Cliffs.
“What started as a small grassroots team of people in District 2 has expanded to include people from all over Southern California,” added Jackson Hefti, noting their cause enjoys support from Sierra Clubs, a Salk Institute professor, The Xerces Society, local beekeepers and the Surfrider Foundation.
Jackson Hefti has also provided Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council with five integrated pest management policies from other cities including cost analysis.
“So much of what we do in San Diego is outdoors with our children, grandchildren and fur babies,” said Jackson Hefti. “We want green natural fields to recreate and play on with our families, not toxic fields.”