The Willard Park tot lot will be officially reopening today (Friday) after remaining closed for two weeks in order to take care of rat infestation.
“We have been successful in trapping 13 juvenile rats. Most of them were caught in the first few days and we’ve noticed the numbers going down gradually,” Jim Hynes, assistant to the Berkeley city manager, told the Daily Planet.
Hynes added that it was safe to assume that the problem was taken care of. The team in charge of controlling the infestation had discovered burrows between the two tennis courts in Willard Park. The dense vegetation around the Willard Pool, as well as around private property near the park, had also been trimmed to control rat harborage.
“We were specifically on the lookout for sources for the breeders and we were successful in finding them,” he said.
No poisons or pesticides had been used to get rid of the rats. It was done entirely by trapping. The wooden deck in the tot lot has been taken off and resurfaced with plywood. The city is also looking at gathering funds for permanently resurfacing the deck with a stronger synthetic material which would be slip-proof. The new painted grit surface could be put into place as soon as funds are available at the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Hynes also acknowedged the fact that the city was looking to hold talks with the Willard Neighborhood Association about introducing owls in Willard Park after a Berkeley resident had suggested the same in a letter to the Planet. “I think it’s a great idea and I will be discussing it this week,” he said.
“I would also like to remind the public to be careful with food and not to discard leftovers in the park. Although the Parks Department picks up food from the tot lot everyday, the people visiting it should also act responsibly,” he said.
Manuel Ramirez, manager of environmental health at the city’s Department of Health and Human Services that provided the city with consultation on controling the rat problem, told the Planet that the city had put a lot of effort into getting rid of the rats and cleaning up the tot lot. “In the end it’s always a community effort. Visitors need to remember to put their leftovers from lunch into the trash cans and not the sidewalk,” he said.
Heather Saloff, a Berkeley resident who lives near the park told the Planet that she was definitely going to go back to the tot lot with her son. “We have observed the work being done from a distance and it’s good to know they have found a source for the problem and fixed it,” she said.