My name's Kat Knecht. I've been in this position for about a year and a half now. And I started by way of habitat restoration specifically, you know, riparians so IPM while it fits in with habitat restoration, I did a lot of weed management. There's a lot that was new to me when I started. And so, one of the most important things that I've learned is how to collaborate and invite in people that have a lot more experience and there's probably a lot more experienced in this room. So, I want to encourage that's why Dave's here, but I also want to encourage everyone else that's here. You know, as you have thoughts. If you have questions throughout this presentation, feel free to just raise your hand, speak up. I'd like for this to be more of a discussion.
I'm going to open it up to discussion at the end. I have some questions that I've peppered throughout this presentation and they're kind of just for you to think about. And then at the end you'll see a slide where all those same questions are listed again, where you can look at them. And my hope is that will spark a discussion. And in order to motivate you, I brought a bag of our Tier A swag, which is way better than the swag we bring to the table. We have new hats, we have other things, we have water bottle slings, other stuff. So, I'm going to try to bribe people to participate in the discussion and lend their own expertise because this is a room with a lot of expertise in it. So, my hope is that this presentation will, will spark that. So, what I want to talk about is kind of just an update on Marin County, what we're up to, our policy and talking about some of the successes and some of the challenges that we faced.
Our policy was written by our staff in collaboration with the IPM commission, which is a citizen group of volunteers. And so, it's a really interesting document. So, just a little history about our IPM program. Our policy was created in response to citizen concern around the use of herbicides and the coordinator position was created out of that concern. In addition to our, so we created our policy, our IPM commission and IPM coordinator. The creation of those were all a part of our policy. And then they added my position, the specialist position because they realized that giving one person a very tiny slice of their job as IPM for the entire county for 147 sites was not going to work. So, my entire job is dedicated to our IPM program. And our program is governed by the ordinance and policy at Marin County.
Before we get you to, I just want to ask, is it okay if people ask the question?
I would love for people to ask questions during, feel free to interrupt if you have things to share, go for it.
Can you tell us when the policy was created?
Well, there has been lots of different iterations. It started in the late 1990s but the policy as we really recognize it today, with the products and stuff really started in 2011 but then 2013 and then more additions in 2015. It's really been ongoing, but it's been ongoing now for 20 years.
Our current IPM coordinator is Jim Chica. He's my direct supervisor and Dave's direct supervisor as well. And he's one of our superintendents and he has kind of, I call it the three-legged stool--fuels reduction, IPM and contract management for the entire department. So, one third of the of his job is being IPM coordinator in addition to being a superintendent. Specialists is a hundred percent time. That's me. And so, here's some, just some questions for later discussion to think about. What are your community's greatest concerns about your work? What are their greatest concerns around the use of chemicals and what do they vocally support?
That's something that we've been trying to really focus on lately. We finally really developed a good solid working relationship with the community. At first, when this program was first started, you know, we had people packed in the Board of Supervisors Chamber. There was yelling, there were signs, there were major protests. Chris Chamberlain, who is now our assistant director, was in the IPM coordinator position and he definitely experienced a lot more conflict during his time there than I have. And I've been really lucky to come in at a point when we're already working really well with the community, largely due to Chris's work. One of our most active allies now--she was a protester. I talked to her and I just said, like, what changed for you over time? And she said, you know, I really felt heard. And so, I think that the process of listening and working with the community has really improved our ability to relate to them and it's made my job a lot easier.
Speaking of which, when we had a lot of these issues and when the community was really concerned, one thing that they did was they actually started looking into where are pesticides being applied in Marin. And some of our community leaders and activists realize that only one quarter of 1% of the pesticides being applied in the county were being applied by Marin County Parks. And they kind of had a moment of saying, wait a minute, we want to be working on private lands. We want to be reducing pesticide use on private lands. And we said, well, we can't do that, but we will give you a grant. And so they founded a nonprofit called Yard Smart Marin, and they're working to coordinate with a lot of community activists with Home Depot, with the "Oh Wow Program" and a lot of other with Mixed Op, which is our, you know, storm water prevention pollution folks.
And so they are currently working in the community to target HOAs and other private landowner organizations. And so, we gave them two years’ worth of funding to start this nonprofit and actually partnered with them to do it. And so, we were really able to pivot a lot of the energy that was focused towards us towards really more productive places. And just a shout out to Yard Smart. They are called Yard Smart Marin, but they're totally happy to talk to people anywhere in the bay area. So, if you have citizens, one of the reasons I plugged them, they've been really helpful for us. I get calls to my office all the time from people that have questions or concerns and when I forward them to Yard Smart, they really have the time and attention to really walk people through what they can do on their private lands.
They've been a great resource for me. And also, just having an organization that started out that is really vocally anti pesticide and being able to refer them in that direction is really helpful for people just on an emotional level to know that we're hearing what they're saying. So, just a plug for Yard Smart, you can feel free to pass your folks along to Yard Smart if you get a call to your office. So, our IPM policy covers all lands owned, leased, or managed by Marin County. We've got 147 sites this year. We had a 148, but we no longer own San Geronimo Golf Course or manage San Geronimo Golf Course. Which was one of the sites where we had some of our most intensive pesticide applications. So, it's actually kind of nice to have that off the list right now.
Hands up. Who here operates under an IPM policy? Okay. Who here has questions about other people's policies? Okay. A couple people. Great. So, just a little bit about ours. We have an IPM Commission that was established to provide recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Those are citizen volunteers. We have a list of allowed products that contractors are allowed to use. I'm going to get into this because there's quite a few different ways to talk to contractors about what kind of products they can use. Some organizations have an organics first policy where contractors can use whatever they want to as long as it's certified organic. Some folks have specific lists. We have a specific list right now. Chris and I were talking about this and how sometimes it can be easier to provide a list because it can really make decision making easier for those contractors and take some of the burden of research and work off of them.
But then sometimes, you know, maybe the list doesn't have the most cost-effective product on it. And so, there can be tradeoffs there. We have an exemption process. So, if we want to for some reason apply a product that is not on the list, we can sometimes use an exemption in order to have that product temporarily allowed. And we have specific notification requirements in our policy. We have reporting requirements and the policy also outlined specific pesticide goals. So, just a little conversation. I have an allowed products lists printed out if you're curious here in the back. We have a structural product use list and a landscape product list. And it's also of course, digitally available. We've got it for contractors and the public, etc., but the exemption process. So, for example, our policy does not allow any herbicide or any pesticides at all to be applied within turf areas, playground areas and picnic areas.
And so when we, if, if we want to apply any sort of chemicals to wasps, even if it's, you know, if it's like under a picnic table, if we have a wasp nest, we actually have to apply for an exemption even though that product is on our allowed products list because we are still applying it in an area that's banned within our policy. And so sometimes we get product exemptions because of the place where we need to apply a product. Sometimes we get them because of the product that we want to use. Another example of an exemption that we got for this year is for Weed Slayer. We're trying it out. How many folks here have tried that? Anyone? Okay. We'll talk about it in a minute. Our PCA recommended it. And we're just, it's another burn down product. We've been comparing it to Finalsan, and we didn't hear about this product until after we had finalized our allowed product lists for the year.
But then when we looked into it, we realized that because it didn't have a signal word, we really wanted to try it. And because of the burn downs that we were using had signal words of warning. And so, we want to reduce our signal words as part of our IPM policy. So, we really wanted to try it. We felt like this product was in the spirit of the policy, but it wasn't on the allowed products list. So, we went to environmental health, we had to write this whole application, we had to talk about how we are doing all these other non-chemical methods. But there's a reason that we have to use herbicides within our medians for safety, for applicators. And we have to go through a whole process and then have environmental health approve that exemption of application before we're actually allowed to use the product. And we review that with the IPM commission as well.
So, there's a series of hoops that we have to jump through before we can try something new or apply a product that's a known product within a turf area, playground area, picnic area. We have pretty stringent notification requirements above and beyond what product labels call for. So, we notify of any product application four days ahead of time and leave up that notification for four days afterwards onsite and on our website. And that's really been helpful for us because it gives us a chance to chat with people. People want to be able to avoid walking in areas with their dogs. There's a lot of concern around dog walking and so we are really trying to mitigate that by providing people with as much information as we can as early as possible. And if we have products that are either organic or on the 25B list, does everyone, does anyone not know what the 25B list is?
Okay. So, basically it means that it's deemed a minimum risk active ingredient by the EPA. And although the product does have a label and has an SDS and all of those things, it doesn't have an EPA registration number. But we can still use those products. And for those we post one day before, but we still keep the notification up for four days after. If we want to apply a product on an emergency basis, like for example, a wasp type situation, we can, but we have to, we have an exemption that we took out at the beginning of the year for wasps specifically in case we have emergencies that we need to remove them. So, we keep our notices right there on the website, on their IPM side note. This was a picture of this exact same lawn with about a hundred geese on it when they first published our website.
And I called, and I was like, "Do we have a picture without the geese maybe that we could use?" And luckily, I don't know how they got this one, but they did. But I thought that was really funny. I was just like; I don't want to geese my IPM homepage. So, pesticide notifications, they're really, really simple. They're bright yellow. They go up on site. So, we report to the Board of Supervisors annually. We report to our IPM commission on a quarterly basis. And we report to the public and to DPR on a monthly basis. I love that graphic. It's got our little people.
Our pesticide goals are really specific within the policy and this is where we start to get into our challenges and the kind of parts to chew on. And here's where I'd love more of your thoughts and ideas, especially when we get into the discussion. But our first goal is to eliminate all danger and warning products. Our second goal is to replace nonorganic products with organic products. Does anybody here know why that is a specific challenge?
Most organics are warning or danger because they're burned downs and they're based on either acids or some other, like Eugenol is one of the oils and these things can cause really intense eye damage. And so, the public talks about toxicity. And I'm sure that for me, I've reached the point where when I hear people talk about toxicity, I immediately want to know what kind of toxicity are you referring to? And 90% of the time people cannot answer that question. And so, we're really careful to try to educate the public and our IPM commission about different types of toxicity. We talk about short term, we talk about long-term, we talk about you know, danger to the applicator versus danger to the public versus the environment and trying to balance all of these things. And we're actually really getting pretty far. Our IPM Commission has a pretty nuanced understanding now of the ways that they're having to make tradeoffs to try to meet this policy.
But this has been a big challenge for us, which is why when our PCA called and said, "Hey, have you thought about Weed Slayer?" It doesn't have a signal word and it's organic or I think it's eco-exempt. I forget if it's Omri or if it's 25B. But no, it's Omri I think. And so, I was really interested in hearing about that because finding an organic product that has no signal word is something that up until this point I have not seen. We also are needing an exemption for anything that's on the Prop 65 lists. So, my coffee, I should be writing an exemption for that. And we have to prove within that exemption application, like I said, that we've tried everything else. They're going to run through the whole IPM list. What have you done for prevention? What have you done for cultural control, mechanical control, etc.?
The only exception to that really is wasps. The environmental health is very strong believer that we do not want people stung in our parks. And in addition to that, in addition to wanting to use organic products or other goals to reduce the total amount of product used. Now once again with organic products, usually you have to use 10 times as much in terms of ounces and the way that the policy was written, they're doing an ounce by ounce comparison. And so I'll show you in a little bit, but you'll see that our use has gone way up because we're switching to these organic burn-down products where people are spraying, I mean gallons for some of these bug repellents on the exteriors of buildings where before it was just, it was anyway, so these are all things that we're dealing with. We're working on educating the public and trying to help people understand that while these are all really great goals, you can't achieve all of them at once given current technology and budgets. But we're getting there, we're working on it. We definitely are holding it as our north star.
So, just questions to think about what are your programs, pesticide goals, how are they stated, how are they codified? Is there enforcement system? And do any of your goals conflict with one another? I'm just curious about that. So, basically our pesticide use is almost exclusively, our herbicide use, pardon me, is almost exclusively roadsides and medians at this point. We are pretty much only spraying herbicides at this point on roadsides and medians. And that's really due to the safety of our applicators. We don't want them to have to keep coming back and standing in the middle of a median in the middle of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard with cars going 50 miles an hour. Dave got clipped once by a mirror. And so that is always a story that I tell because applicator safety and public safety are both really, really important to us. And so, we're constantly looking for ways to try to maximize both of those things. We had a golf course and that upped our numbers, not upper our numbers. But we no longer, actually we had two golf courses, but there was one where we were applying some Banner Max turf anti-fungals in order to, because it was in a really shady, foggy area, and so we were dealing with a lot of turf fungus. We're no longer managing that site. But that was definitely a challenge for us for funguses.
And we are also just remember, I just want to put a shout out to MKAT. Where's Hazel? Hazel's in the back. She's a part of it. So, we don't currently have knotweed on Marin County Parks or open space. Japanese knotweed. I'm going to have a slide of it up here for ID. Just cause I'm just telling everyone what it looks like wherever I go. But we're still participating in a multi-agency county and let's see, parks district. I mean there's tons of people. Yes?
Do you have the same standards as the County in terms of the selection of the pesticides?
We're different. They actually are much stricter than we are. And they are currently doing some really incredible work at the MMWD right now.
Have they suspended use of glyphosate?
Oh yes. Yes, they have. They're not using it in the watershed.
I heard about your trial of medians free of herbicides in 2017.
We do use organic herbicides in a couple of our medians in Marin County. Not most of them, but some of the ones where we're charged with maintaining those lands.
Yes, as of right now, yes. We're using Weed Slayer, which is an organic burn down. Okay. So, here's our glyphosate chart. Obviously, glyphosate is of the main concern. There are lots of tradeoffs for using organic products. Another one that I just want to talk about is the fact that the active ingredient in our burn downs is also the same active ingredient in many of our organic insecticides. That is a point of concern for me in a pretty major way. If we are, you know, a product is only an herbicide, or an insecticide based on how you're using it. And so, if we're spraying insecticides on our plants and it's taking everything down, is that a good ecological practice? I think that's pretty questionable. But we are not currently using any glyphosate, but you can see that our labor hours went up.
This goes up to 2018. In 2019, things have pretty much tapered off. That's why I didn't do a major update with the last couple month’s worth of data because the truth is it was pretty well reflected in 2018. But you'll be able to see that our labor hours have went up a lot and especially when the policy was first being enacted. We had a major spike in labor hours and Dave's going to talk about that with contracts. So, in 2018, our conventional pesticide, this is our non-organic non 25 B list, pesticides increased very, very slightly. So, from 335 ounces to 371 ounces, I want to track these in a different way. I don't love using ounces. But that's where we're at right now. But I'd like to, if anyone has ideas, let's talk.
I just want to say to clear up confusion, is that the active ingredient or the whole product?
The whole product. That's one of the reasons that I'm not in love with using ounces. And but that's what the reporting requirements are, is you know, the ounces of whole product. So, as you can see, our organic ounces have skyrocketed since these products have been used. And what's interesting though is the public is happy with this. We have almost no protests about this. We're very open about what's going on. We talk about it a lot. We talk about our challenges, we about our successes and they want to see these organic burns down products. This is what we've found as of right now. So, these are the products that we used in different years. It's interesting, you can see the product use has gone way down, but it's a little bit more diverse. But essentially, let's see, of those, most of those are our structural pesticides and a lot of them are frankly just for ants. But our organic use has gotten less diverse and increased. So, the exact opposite. So, conventional use has gone down and become more diverse and the organic has become less diverse and gone up a lot. We're probably going to see a similar bar to that this year.
The one before you had a lot of use of agryphosate, the fungicide.
We did not use that in 2018 I think it was being used quite a bit in 2015, 2016 but we haven't used it in the last two years. They were using it for sudden oak death treatments. I think, and then it was determined that that was probably not going to be the best use of our budget. So, this is just a breakdown of some of the organic products that we're using. And if you have more specific questions you can definitely ask. We were not really using Civitas anymore, but it did work really well. So, if you're managing golf courses and you have a little bit of turf mold, it's literally just mineral oil. It's like, I'm sure if you wanted to, I mean if you had your own turf mold at home in your backyard, you could probably use Johnson & Johnson's baby oil.
But we used Finalsan, which had the active ingredient ammoniated sopa fatty acids. We switched over to Weed Slayer, which is a eugenol-based product. We're also not using Acelepryn anymore. Habitat is being used on one of our IPM sites. That's amasapere and that is being used by the invasive spartina project. And I think they went from using four ounces on one of our sites in 2017 or 2018 two one ounce this last year. So just want to shout out to ISP. And so, this is just a summary of some of the other ones. Wasp Freeze, we're moving away from Wasp Freeze due to lack of effectiveness. And also, just the fact that, you know, we don't want to really be contributing that to the watershed right now. So, we're looking into alternatives for wasps.
This is Weed Slayer. We're finding it's about as effective as any of the other burn downs that we've been using. We're hearing from some people are claiming that it's acting as a systemic. We haven't totally experienced that necessarily ourselves. But I'm not testing the Ph of the water that's, you know, going into it and stuff like that. But essentially there are two parts that get mixed together upon application. One is eugenol, but the other is a proprietary bio surfactant. And I tried to learn a lot more about that and was unable to thus far, am going to still continue to try. But the idea according to the Weeds Slayer folks is that this bio surfactant allows the active ingredient to penetrate in such a way that it's much more effective and can get root kill. And yeah, exactly. I'm not.
Do they call it a bio surfactant?
Yes, that is literally what is listed as the active, it's listed as the active ingredient and this is why I'm like, this is new. We're looking at it. We were like, well, we'll see if it works. You know, we love that it has no signal word but we're definitely still in the trying it out, trying to learn more period. That was kind of why I was curious as anyone else had more experience with this product. In 2019 we've applied Finalsan and competitor. Our supplier ran out of Finalsan. We switched over to Weed Slayer parts A and B. We've had similar results with both of those. Then we've used Wasp Freeze, a little bit of Habitat. Esentrial is also eugenol and Geranial, I believe, mixed together and that is a building repellent. It gets sprayed. It's an annual or biannual treatment that gets sprayed on the perimeter exteriors of our buildings.
We use mostly Taro or Dominant, which are just boric acid ant baits where we can. We do, we did have one Fipernil application this year and we really are trying to avoid using Fipernil. However, we had one ant issue get out of control due to some issues with contractor management with which Dave's going to be talking about very shortly. So, this is just a list of what our open space district is using. Our open space district is separate from our IPM program. So, this is also something as professionals you understand that the way that open spaces and habitat management works is really different than human habitat management and recreation areas. Our IPM program is focused on human habitats and so our open space district has a lot more ability to choose which products they want to use.
However, they are extremely judicious and constantly trying to reduce the amount of herbicide they're using. And they're doing a ton of IPM. They just had a bunch of goats out, but this is just a list of what they're using. You know, I just heard around the office, it's like the goats are great, but they're not as effective enough on their own. So, we're still for fuel reduction, looking into, you know, still using Garlon, still using Habitat because the fuels reduction demand right now in the community is really high. That's something that I haven't really had a chance to dive into here today, but we will definitely be talking about. So, I'm going to kind of skip through some of this stuff unless, yeah, I think I am. Because I want to give Dave time to talk and I want to have time for discussion and then if the discussion dies, we can always learn about pesticide modes of action just for fun. Just for fun, but we won't do that this minute.
I want to talk about how has our IPM policy changed operations in terms of non-chemical work, which is really why a lot of people are here. So, that was our chemical summary. As you can see right here. So, in 2015, we had a huge increase in labor hours and again, in 2016 and I think 2015 is when we stopped spraying glyphosate. So, as you can see, our labor hours went up a lot and then they petered out. And so only a 0.58% increase. And I think that this should be less than 1%, probably again, and increase in 2019. So, we've kind of really stabilized in terms of what we're doing for both contractors and for herbicide application.
That's the Parks district?
Oh, this is, yes, this is labor for, no actually, this is all of our IPM program labor. So, this includes, we have reports that come in monthly from every single department. So, like for example, DPW does a ton of IPM. They send me a monthly report, our contractors send monthly reports. And then our park staff from different areas send monthly reports as well. And we compile all that. So, these are staff IPM hours, not just within parks. And they include contractor work on non-park sites. So, our contractors, you know, maintain libraries and Health and Human Services and lots of other places. And so, all of those hours as well are fed into this. Yeah?
With that increase, is that around your Measure A funding hit as well? Like how did you support that increase financially?
There is a Measure A slide coming up and I will be plugging Measure A, thank you. Measure A is the answer. And so, "A" for answer. So, just a really brief, you know, what have we been doing? The standard stuff. I mean the truth is we have had help from Measure A. Marin County has been really lucky and so we've been able to fund a lot more of that non-chemical labor. We've been doing a lot more hand weeding, weed whipping, mowing, using hand tools, mulching a plug for the Schroeder Method. This is not something that you can do on a large scale, but Kirk has done this amazing mulch thing with his volunteer groups and so I'm calling it the shorter method because he did it himself and he layers so much rice straw. It's amazing. And so, he just wanted me to, to shout out that if you're going to be using any kinds of straw, he really recommends rice straw over the other kinds of straw because of how clumpy it is.
And Kirk Schroeder is our, is our volunteer coordinator. So, he's able to do super thorough mulching jobs within some of our parks in areas with volunteers. In addition to, you know, the vast majority of our landscaped areas where we're using you know, landscape fabric and gorilla hair. And David's going to talk more about mulching. We do some propane flaming. It's not as you probably know, although here you guys have so much more fog. I wish we had as much fog as you do because I feel like we could do even more propane flaming. But you know, there are some safety concerns related to that. There's mixed to good results I would say. And it can be really tricky planning because you need the right weather, you need to have a fire crew available. And having that these days is more and more challenging as we know.
And we need fire crews available for our fuel reduction projects. And so, there's even more demand on fire crews right now than there has been in the past. Grazing in the open space district works well but not well enough on its own. And so, you know, we're still using other methods and some chemical methods for fuel reduction in open spaces which is again not counted into our IPM program data. They really separated those two things out when the policy was created. But the public loves goats. They love them. It is, has people so engaged people are so excited about it in our meetings, so we recommend them. Just for y'all not weed identification, has everyone here, raise your hand if you have heard of Japanese knotweed. Okay, great. So, Japanese knotweed is relatively new to the bay area. It is super, super, super, super invasive.
It is in the top 10 most noxious weeds in the world list according to an agency that lists the most noxious weeds in the world. I don't know which one. But I'm essentially, I just wanted to have just a little slide so that you can look for it wherever you are and report it if you find it. So, it has spade shaped leaves about the size of your hand. It has like a kind of a flat bottom. It's almost really kind of shaped like your hand and it has a purple stem when it's juvenile. And then the stem looks like hemlock when it's older where it's green and has purple spots on it and it's hollow and bamboo like and it needs moist soils, but it loves shade or sun. So, if you have moisture, it doesn't matter how hot it is. I have seen it grow like out of parking lots and baked in Washington state where I was working before because it got enough rain to do it. So, I'm pretty much anywhere in this city. It would love to be. That's just my little knotweed plug.
Data management, huge challenge right now that I am really working on. We are dealing with a very antiquated data reporting system at the moment. And I want to update it in a lot of different ways. That would be I think really, hopefully helpful to my time, but also to staff time that's doing the reporting. They're currently reporting into a time sheet system, a project management system that tracks tasks. And in addition, having to create these IPM reports. I feel like they're triplicating their efforts of reporting right now and I really want to streamline the process. But of course, that's tied up in too many other technological updates within departments, within counties and in a little bit of gridlock right now. But we're going to get so, faith.
I would really love to talk about data management in our discussion that we're going to start in a little bit. Measure A makes the parks, open spaces and farmlands or protects the parks, open spaces and farmlands that make Marin an extraordinary place to live, work and play. That is the motto. Really Measure A is why we're able to do this work. It's a quarter cent tax measure. It funds my position completely. And so, and it funds the majority of work that we're doing. It's also funding a ton of fuel reduction work right now and we just did a public survey and there's a huge amount of public support right now for Measure A because we've done a pretty good job of connecting pesticide reduction to this tax measure in the mind of the public. In addition to fuels work and a lot of other work that's happening. But we're definitely heading into another major cycle of 2021. They're going to be voting on it again and we are really hoping that we can continue to get that support. If we don't, there will be major changes in the program.
Structural pests. We definitely have had some challenges with structural pests. This is a headline of the Marin IJ, "Vermin invasion shuts Marin civic center restaurant." It is still not reopened. We definitely have a large campus of the civic center that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which is really cool. If anyone ever wants a tour, email me and I will take you through and I will show you all of the really cool things, including the clocks that have the gears built on one side of the wall and the hands on the other. And there's all these beautiful little sketches by Frank Lloyd Wright, like tucked through and models. It's the coolest building ever. You should come visit us, but it's also a rodent Disneyland or theoretically, I mean it's not right now. We actually have had a lot of success with our program, but in terms of it is open to the public, it is open to the outdoors. It's like an indoor, outdoor facility. There are interior scapes that are really complex. We have three different layers of interior escapes that have trees and bushes and all sorts of harborage and highways. And it's an amazing building. And frankly we'd write was a great visionary, but not necessarily a details-oriented builder. And so, we've had, you know, a lot of challenges related to leaks and rodents and other things. So, we have a trapping program. Honestly, we're not trapping a ton of rats. The thing that really ended the major invasion that we were dealing with in the civic center was really removing the food sources and doing a ton of exclusion work.
I think the DPW spent $72,000 on exclusion work over six weeks or something like that. Like it was wild. And they did a ton of exclusion work. They're looking at bringing a vendor back in and that'll be the real test to see how well that program really worked last year when we had this massive rodent into invasion. Currently we're not detecting any rodents in that area after a trapping exclusion and removing the food and harborage. So, this brings us to healthy plant scapes with Dave. I just want to say Dave has been a mentor to me since we've started. Our offices are right next to each other and I've learned more probably from just chatting with him and my doorway than almost anything else here at parks. So please, like I brought him here because he knows way more than I do about all of the details with what our contractors are doing and I know that people have detailed questions and so I really wanted to bring somebody in with that level of expertise. So, Dave take it away.
Well, like Kat said, my name's Dave Dibble and I am the landscape services supervisor for Marin County, and I've been doing this job for about 15 years. Before that I was a landscape C-27 contractor. I've been working in the landscape industry for about, I don't know, since 1987. I got a degree in park administration from Chico State University aside from drinking beer and it was a great experience. So, when I got out, I wanted it to be a park ranger. Unfortunately, the job market in that field is pretty tight, so if you don't know somebody in the field of park rangership your little application or your resume goes in the round file a lot of times. So, after putting out 50 or so resumes, I think I got three responses back. But maybe I wasn't that attractive on the resume to start with.
I don't know. But anyway, I thoroughly enjoy working in the green industry. I've been, I've been doing this for quite a while going on 30 plus years now and I've seen everything. With the county. I've seen everything in the contract world. I started working with Bertati Landscaping. I don't know if you guys are familiar with that company. Robinson Landscaping was another one I worked for and then a Dibble Landscaping started up with my brother. And if you ever worked with family, it's the best of the best. But the demise of that was when it was the worst, it was the worst. So, as brothers go, we split ways, no regrets and we're all good, but it was a great experience and I value that tremendously in the work I do now. But as Kat said you know, going through and just kind of the nuts and bolts of our industry is working in the field, which I thoroughly enjoy, and I've been doing it with a passion for a long time.
I'm out in the field pretty much all day long up and down the highway, the quarter from Sausalito to Nevado. And I do manage the contracts for the County so that all the landscape contractors that we employ, their work is supervised by me. And as such, I go through and I evaluate landscapes daily with plant, plant selection, plant health, irrigation, mulching, tree health, every aspect, safety we do, pathways and things that we have to maintain as well for safety and street medians. So, I did get clipped on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. How many of you know where that's located? Okay. Well it's a very busy street. And I stuck to the larger part of my body out at bending over to pick up something off the ground. And lo and behold, a car went by me, 50 miles an hour.
So on 101 it's the west side. Yeah. I got spanked pretty good. And it was a wakeup call. So, it was a wakeup call to make sure that I was cognizant of safety issues. So, when you're working in the field, make sure you've got your safety PPEs and make sure you keep your ears and your eyes open. I know a lot of you guys; I know you guys got the safety vests on and you're probably working out in some areas that maybe aren't as safe as you'd want them to be. Here in the city, especially with people driving in that and a lot of little different roadways and that kind of thing. So, safety is huge. And so, I evaluate all these things and I'm, I come across a variety of things every day in my work, whether it be dead plants.
And I think we have some pictures up of dead material. But I just wanted to talk a little bit about what you start with when you get into the field. Plant selection. A lot of times your plant selections are made by architects and designers and maybe even engineers. And I've seen a lot of things where you'll go to an area and they'll see shady plants sitting in a full sun application or a full sun environment. So, when you plant, there's a lot of factors that go into that when you plant species, when you plant plants, think about the species that you're planting. We have some Clivia which is a very beautiful little flowered plant that grows very well in kind of a partial shade, not full sun, but we have those things in areas. Some of the areas in the civic center that were planted in this full sun, they don't do very well.
Well, I'm constantly getting calls on, hey, how come this plant is dying? Well, it's baking is why it's sitting out in the street median. That's like a reflective heat pan. Also, on a full Sunday, it's not going to do well anyway. So, you know, trying to throw water on those things and try to spruce them up is almost dang near impossible. So, you know, selection is really important. And that's a conversation that if you work in the field you may want to have with your architects. And I kind of think, and I, I believe this, that there's kind of a little bit of a disconnect between the design architectural part of our work and actual field implementation. Those conference conversations need to happen. If you're not having those conversations, get on board and ask the question, talk to your people that are in the design and architectural business because you guys out in the field and people that are working in the field are really the ones that are in touch with what works and what doesn't work.
And that feedback is hugely important to people who are designing those things. So, placement, plant selection, species selection all plays a huge role in that. The other side of that is irrigation, types of irrigation, types of application types, or water auditing. So, we have situations in the county where people have used Tech Line or Netafim, you know what that is. Everybody knows what that, that may be. Tech Line is a, is a drip line emitter and it's in a tube, a plastic polytube. And they come in different spacing, six-inch, 12-inch, 18 inches. Well, if you have an area of ground and you're using a tech line to water the plants in that particular landscape you'll, your spacing has to accommodate the watering. So, you'll have, I mean, in our applications we see large stretches maybe 20 feet, where there's no plants but you have a tech line installation there.
Well, what's the water doing? It's watering what bare ground, right? It's germinating seeds that are in the ground. So, all those seed heads that are there, weeds mostly are going to germinate. And that's a big problem. So, using the proper irrigation is very, very important. When you're designing or implementing plant skaters.
You can splice in some solid poly rows.
And that's what we've been doing. There's, there's areas in the county, especially along the Sir Francis Drake corridor where we have large swaths of land that plants have either died, plants weren't planted. You have barriers just being watered and then that's a great place for weeds to germinate and start up. So, reducing that is a big part of that. So, maintenance wise, using polytube to transfer water from A to B with the Netafim or tech line is a way to do that and you can reduce your water waste as well.
And Marin County is very, very diligent and I've encountered many people in the MMWD who are honest, like, you know, security officers. Like, "Hey, what's going on? What are you guys doing over here?" Just as an example, I had a rotor spray turf that was on the side of a street median at the civic center. And so, I had been warned, "Hey, you got water spring into the street." So, I go out there and I adjust, all the rotor heads along the curb so that they are just right inside the border of the turf. Well then the guy comes back an hour later and says, "Hey, what's going on? I just tested these lines and you’re; you're watering the turf." I go, "Well yeah, you just yelled at me for, you know, having these rotors adjusted. They were hitting the curb."
I said, "What is it going to be?" You know, he was mad that I made the adjustment. So, dealing with public agencies and cooperatively dealing with them is important as well. So, and we're very beholden to you know, to what they are asking us to do. We have a tier rate system over there in the county. And so, your water use is really critical as we all should be cognizant in California of waterways. So, types of irrigation. You would not necessarily want to put a rotor system onto a small street median. Those applications are generally going to be either a drip or micro system. or a Netafim or tech line or maybe a small spray system, but not, you know, you're not going to put rotors in that application. As a matter of fact, rotors would go into large turf areas like you have out here at the at the park.
So, and then making sure that those are maintained properly. So, correct nozzle application, water distribution, head to head coverage. Those things all come into play when you're managing turfs and it's extremely important that you stay on top of that because you know, you'll see in a slide I have, you'll see what happens when the rotors get out of alignment or the sprays don't work properly. And then water auditing. If you have mass precipitation rates with your watering schedule you should be able to kind of effectively come up with a ballpark of what you're using in your landscape. It doesn't happen all the time because water is one of those things that it's always flowing. So, and if it's, if the applications aren't properly matched, you're not going to get good mass precipitation rates. So, doing water audits throughout the course of your work is important as well, especially when you're in the field.
So all these things, you know, the irrigation, plant placement, species, very, very important to the health of a landscape. As an example, if you have a large turf area and you have a ground that's drying out, all those rhizomes in the soil are not getting water. So, then the grass dies back. Well, what do you get in place of the grass? Well, when we have geese out on the turf, they dropped three to four pounds of poop a day, average per goose. And that ends up with all the seeds and everything else that's in there adds up to nothing but weeds. And then birds flying by will drop, whatever they have too. So, those little bare areas of dirt are great seed beds, or hosts, for these little seeds that grow up. So, you want to create healthy turfs. Turf is not the best water conserving application that you could put in, but also keep in mind that a healthy turf will squeeze out those nasty, noxious weeds that we have to deal with all the time.
So, that being said, moving on to mulch. The other thing that I need needed to talk about is mulch. Mulch is an it's another way to reduce our seed populations, but proper mulching is, is hugely important. We started sheet mulching about, I think it was 2011, 2010, maybe. And for the first year we were having great results, but then we started having a lot of folks putting mulch or sheet mulching in. They really weren't paying attention to how the mulch and the cardboard and everything else went down. You got to reduce the sunlight. Okay? You got to eliminate the sunlight and the contact with the sun to the soil so that you can actually solarize whatever's in there. And the cellulose will break down in the soil and create a better soil profile. But if you don't cover that sunlight or that sun transpiration there with the seeds, you're going to get germination of weeds through your sheet molds.
So, then you have unsuccessful sheet mulching project. So, creating the proper sheet mulch you know, whether it be cardboard layer in a cardboard layer on top of a growing media and then four, three or four inches of mulch on top of that. That's the proper way to do that. And then make sure your coverage, I usually overlap six to eight inches on the cardboard overlap, which eliminates all sunlight. So, great way to keep it out. You're not going to get rid of the seeds all altogether, but great way to kind of solarize add nutrients to the soil value and then also kill off this, the germinating seeds that are in there. Site prep. Raking and grading, having a nice even and then eliminating roots and things that are sticking up, rocks, so that your seed mulch isn't getting compromised. That's another one. Seed prevention.
So anyway, that's that, moving around. These are the reports that I put together. These, I have five or six jobs that I'll pick every week and report on. I have 27 sites to manage through the contractors. So, as you can tell them up and down the highway from Sausalito to Nevado every day, and it's nonstop and that's, you know, I'll fix valves, I'll fix Netafim. I'll do reports on grass, turf tree, shrub management, and it's a big deal. But you got to stay on top of the guys that you have working. In my case, I manage the, I don't manage, I supervise several contractors that manage these sites for us. We used to do it as a county, but our staff has been reduced quite a bit in their operational side of the thing.
So, now we have subcontracted a lot of that work out to contractors who are more able to handle those types of work. So, but I, you know, you can see Fairfax Library here these Manzanita's here, those actually were very prevalent. This whole median right here was full of Manzanita. And you can see with the improper management, that area has died back quite a bit. So now you have these sticky, ugly (inaudible) that are in there now. And that's all grass. So, all this stuff you see in that picture is all grass that has sprouted up. It used to be a full mulched area. So, my job is to go through report and make sure that the mulching is done according to what we have in our contract specs. The street meetings you can see right here is another one of our street meetings.
That's out in the front of the Fairfax. You can see the stumps. Okay. Those are all ex-stumps of the artistalis that were there. So, you can get to a point in your maintenance where you're now you're cutting plants out and removing them. The real trick is replacing those. So, making sure that you have a good working relationship and you have good documentation with your contractor to say, "Hey guys, we had to cut 70 of these plants out there were fully matured. They died back as a result of the water system went south." Okay. And maybe you have a two- or three-day window of a 90 to a hundred-degree weather. Some of your plants can really suffer without any water. And that turnaround is very quick. We have areas that at the civic center in particular that will die back in a very hot weather situation.
If the irrigation is not working properly, the controller's off schedule, whatever, you'll have dye back within a couple of days, two days of kill off, and that's all it takes because they're very sensitive areas. You can see right here we have a rotor situation where this area here, that's all head adjustment problems. So, you have a very unhealthy landscape and you can see all the weeds that are popped up as a result over the course of years of just, you know, poor maintenance. So, and you can see right here, this was all a mulched area as well. This is the same part, Castro Field, but this was all mulched at one time and you can see all the weeds that have started to grow up in there. So, getting your contractor or getting your service people and or operational staff to make sure that your mulching is in place and to make sure that your sheet mulching in particular and different applications that like the rice straw that Kirk has, those kinds of things are hugely important for the reduction in noxious weeds. And that's the goal. The goal is to have aesthetically pleasing landscapes. It's not to strip it down and have a concrete world. Right. A lot of people have the idea, and I've talked to several guys recently with the, "We're just going to get rid of that." "What do you guys got planned for that area now?" "Nothing right now." Yes.
I was recently on Red Hill and I noticed there aren't any American Elms anymore.
Yeah. Now back in the 70s I grew up in San Anselmo. So, back in the 70s all those elements along the Miracle Mile there, got Dutch Elm disease and they started removing those. And I think you're seeing the last dregs of those being taken out now. And I don't know if that's for San Anselmo and similar road renovation or Department of Public Works for the county. I'm not sure. I've just seen a lot of work going on there recently to get rid of the last remaining Dutch Elms.
They were getting antibiotic bacterial treatments for a while that was unsuccessful.
Unsuccessful. Yeah. Yeah. So again, you know, trying these methods. That's a good point. There are so many things that we need to try and, and I'm, I'm totally open as a supervisor and as a guy that, I like new innovation. I'll try anything if it works and if it's safe.
So, that's not county maintained median there?
That, median, no, I don't believe it is.
Because that sure looks bare and not nearly as attractive as it used to be.
So, it looks like a county-maintained site.
It could use some replacement.
Plant replacement. Yeah. I'm a big one in favor, like again, you go back to species placements. So, what would you put there as an example? If it's a dry patch of median, what kind of plants do you think might work there? You know, Rosemary's, maybe something that's a low prostrate plant.
Arbutis is nice. Yeah. If you want to have a little tree, like a kind of a horticultural.
Or bigger trees. I'd rather see oak put in there, but it's more maintenance costs and attention, branches falling and leaves falling.
They get maintenance prohibitive, yeah. Yeah.
Instrum macrum phillum or Occidentalis.
Very good selections for that type of application. And that's actually, we're in the process now, Kat, you may have more insight on this, but we're in the process right now of redesigning the Sir Francis Drake medians at the county. Because that's the one we do manage. And the plant scapes that are there now were put in, oh gosh, I think it was back in 2002, I think, is when they put those in. So, they're old landscapes, they're very old landscapes. You got a lot of echium that's is leggy, and it looks horrible in there. So, but aesthetically pleasing landscapes, that's what we're trying to get to. People want to go out in the parks and enjoy the beauty of the open spaces.
People want to go to your parks to play with the kids at the playgrounds. They don't want to necessarily hang out in the parks and, and play with their kids on dried out, weed ridden grass and sticker bushes and whatever else in the little, you know, burr clovers and that kind of thing. So that's the goal guys. It's making sure that we have very pleasing, aesthetically pleasing plants, plant scapes and the least noxious weeds we can possibly get away with. And so that's the overall goal of what we do. And anyway, so these are just prime examples of why maintenance is so important and why staying on top of this. The reporting aspect and Kat's going to, she's actually brought up some great points that our reporting methods in our data collection at our level needs to really improve.
And you brought up some great points about how you know, the information is tri-level redundant paperwork. If we can streamline that somehow and make it like a one stop shop kind of thing, that's the goal of that. So, and making it easier for field staff and making it easier to disseminate that information up to the top or upper echelons that, you know, people that make the decisions. So, I just make little decisions. I don't make the big ones. But goals, project success and profit for contractors. We all know that if you have subcontractors or contractors on your projects, they have to turn a profit. Now what that level of profit is, I don't know, that would vary from, you know, contractor to contractor, but they're not in the business guys to spin their wheels and just make a paycheck.
They got to put money into the people that they have. They got to train those folks. They got to give them vacation you know, sick time, bonuses, whatever it is. But so, they're in it for profit. But you know, finding the, striking the balance when need to have a contractor that you have contracted with trying to get the good price as a municipal organization, as a city, as a county, that's the real balancing act. So, trying to find a price and the service or performance driven company that can come in and actually effectively manage your sites still while making a profit. And we all know that that's a part of the component, is a goal for both, for both parties. So, following the IPM policies, we have a couple of contractors now that are pretty good at following the IPM policies. They run it through Kat.
And it actually works pretty well. It's not the best, but we're getting there and with Kat's help and she's been able to kind of implement some new things. And, with the Weed Slayer. I like, the Weed Slayer, by the way. You guys remember the days of 24-D, Roundup, how about Turflon? You remember Turflon, Surflon, Durasban, all those really fun chemicals. Yeah, coming out of the 80s, we were all using that stuff on the, you know, thank God we're all still here, but anyway. So yeah, it’s not good stuff. And that's the goal too, IPM is we're trying to reduce that really noxious potentially hazardous to your health and hazardous to the environment application. So, habitat compliance. Making sure, again, that kind of leads back to you know, bird nesting. We have, in the County of Marin, we're extremely cognizant of the bird nesting seasons, songbirds, clapper rails in the marsh areas. And so, intertwining your work area in the county and, you know, trying to get your work accomplished, it becomes very challenging. You're working around a lot of calendar dates that you just can't do anything in.
You mentioned negotiating with contractors who have a profit driven agenda much more than accounting. It just picked up a copy of the San Francisco State Express newspaper that mentions Senate Assembly bill 5, AB-5, that's coming to a vote this week, which may require contractors to reclassify their employees as instead of independent contractors, as employees and start paying vacation and health benefits and sick leave. That's going to change the whole landscape if that passes and the Governor is supporting it.
Yeah. Well, the result of that is what? Costs are going to go up, obviously.
Or profits will go down or maybe the county will have to start hiring employees on themselves.
Is that specific to just landscape contracting?
Our landscapers are employees of the company that we contract with that has the license. But they are already employees of that contractor.
They are, but they, you know, as far as like county, not recommendation, but county policies, they are required by Union Law to be adherent to our policy of how we pay our pay structures or there's a certain wage scale that they have to meet. As far as like, you know, the benefits of working for an outfit. I don't know how that translates, but it sounds like that's in that assembly bill.
So, this might not affect contractors in Marin County rather other contractors throughout the State.
Well, people who are contracting with folks, let's say that aren't licensed too well or don't have a good structure that, you know, relates to pay, salary, wage benefits, that kind of thing. So, that's going to be highly scrutinized I would imagine. I know at Dibble Landscaping, my brother and I, it took us six years to be able to afford medical care for our guys. Okay. But when you start out, you're, you're just scratching to try to make money enough just to pay food to put on your table. And yeah it was, I'm sure you know that, but it took us six years to be able to have enough capital to reinvest and put into our company to get our guys health care, a 401k, whatever it was, try to build them a future. Right? We had zero turnover. Zero turnover in our employees, because you treat people well, you treat them with respect that they deserve, you get them whatever you can get them with benefits. You get them on board, they're all a part of the same program and package that you have. And you know, people don't want to leave when they see people actually care about the employee. And that's why we didn't have any turnover. I mean, my brother still got guys, of course, I turned over, but he's still got guys from 25 years ago.
So, you don't anticipate, it's hard to know until the bill passes and it's negotiated between the Senate and the Assembly, what the final version is. So, you don't anticipate that this would affect Marin county landscape contracting at all?
I don't think so much, because I think a lot of the, and I don't know this for a fact, but I think that the guys that are working there are pretty adherent. The larger companies are, pretty adherent to county policy. So, it goes, it's all legal.
Because they are already employees of the contractor. The AB-5 is more related to like Uber drivers, FedEx drivers like people that are working for corporations that are being given a 1099 instead of a W-2.
Like newspaper delivery boys.
If they get 1099s, yes. But these landscapers are getting W-2s from the companies. So, it's like a slightly different use of the word contract. Yeah. That's an interesting field to track.
Yeah. I'd be interested. I want to keep an eye on that. Thanks for bringing that up by the way.
(Inaudible crosstalk) Okay. So, a lower spinner approach. We're trying to get away from that. We're trying to get to a more performance driven approach. That's like pulling teeth a lot of times because people always have that bottom line in the back of their mind. So, working with companies that, "I'll rob Peter to pay Paul. I don't need to necessarily go to this site today. I can go," you know, so that we get that kind of mentality going on. We're trying to move away from that. We're not necessarily going after the low bid now.
We're going after people who are obligated to perform in that contract. So, whether the cost is a little higher, you want to make sure you can handle that work and then move forward that way. So, and it's a better approach because we get in a better package, so it costs a little bit more money. It's the old adage, you get what you pay for. So, challenges following IPM policy, quality control. Let's see. Performance oriented contract and with price oriented. Yeah, that's what we're trying to look at. Waiting on results. Yeah. So, it's all good. Trying to move forward. So, I would encourage everybody that that's in the industry, new innovations come along, use them, try them, you know convince your boss or your supervisor or your superintendent, "Hey, I just saw this thing. It looks like it's got great efficacy on this or that." Use it. Try it. It can't hurt, right. Unless it's absolutely dangerous.
That's actually great or ask us to try it. We currently are really getting some good support from our leadership around trying new things. And one of the things that we want to be able to do because we have that support is take that risk on and try some new things that may or may not work so that other folks that maybe don't have the same level of support or resources within their current organizations can rely on our data. And so, if there's things that you see and you're like, there's no way they're going to let me try that, but I sure would like to see how that works. Email my office, send me a thing, I might be able to demo it. We might be able to try it in Marin. So, you know, we definitely want to partner with folks and work together to do trials going into the future.
Yeah. I'm still waiting for a drought tolerant, deer resistant, water non-consuming plant. I haven’t seen it yet. Yucca, maybe. I don't know. Anyway. So anyway, and we'll get to question and answer I guess now.
Yeah, I think there's a slide that has our, oh no, irrigation.
I'm still going. You want me to just keep talking?
Well, it's up to you.
We have about five minutes.
Okay. Five minutes. Sounds good. Wrap it up. All right, so irrigation system. Complex stuff that I just want to touch on this. A high turnover, low pay. We've already kind of covered that. A technology for multiple decades. We have at the county, our sites are so antiquated, some of them that you know, you go in and you find galvanized pipe in the ground. I mean, you guys remember galvanized pipe irrigation systems. And that's all they had back in the forties and fifties. Polyethylene hadn't been developed yet, or PVC, polyvinyl chloride.
Electrical plumbing. Some of this stuff that we have is antiquated as all get out. And it's, you know, you'll find electrical wires that are just running to nothing. You dig down and trench in and you'll find a whole loom of wires, like where these things go. And then you look out and, oh, there's a light pole over there and there's an old bank of valves that are in the ground. So, and solar clocks. One of the big challenges is some of the guys that you have on staff, maybe they haven't seen a whole lot of this stuff. So, how many people here train people in the field to what you're doing, or have been trained in the field?
Okay. So, you got some field people. OK, that's good. So, training is huge. You're just spending time to train your people. It only helps you. And when you empower people with training and knowledge, it only helps you complete your job in a very efficient and very progressive, forward moving way. So, I would encourage everybody to have a training program or try to get people on board with training because it feels good. Training is great. So, anyway be as specific as you can. What was that related to? I can't remember what.
Oh, yeah. Okay. Very good. Yeah. So, train them, learn them, and you'll get them educated. That's a good way to go. I was going to talk about snow blindness in cats, but that's, anyway, thank you very much.