Wednesday morning, Summer Roberts dropped by the dog park along Crane Road while in Oakdale to give her pooch a break after the drive across the Valley from Patterson.
She parked along the curb, got out of her car, and the moment she and daughter Trinity stepped on the grass, they were met by a thick, black swarm of mosquitoes. Her daughter, 15-year-old Trinity Roberts, got the worst of it. Already allergic to just about everything, her legs quickly started swelling from mosquito bites.
“Like hundreds on my dogs and daughter,” Summer Roberts posted, along with a photo of her badly bitten legs, on the Oakdale Area Incident Feed Facebook page. “We basically had to get right back in the car.”
“(Trinity) had so many on her that it looked like she was wearing pants,” Roberts told me later.
She had to take Trinity to the hospital emergency room.
As frequently happens in social media — and in this case the web page’s purpose — dozens of people responded with similar complaints, suggestions or advice about the conditions at the park that include wet grass and clouds of mosquitoes. Some told of how they, too, have been besieged by the bugs. Among those responding was Oakdale resident Stacy Rose Beason, who has West Nile disease and posted on Facebook about her battle with it. The city itself responded through its oakdalegov.com Facebook page after officials saw the posts on the Oakdale Area Incident Feed page.
With West Nile and Zika virus cases active in the county, mosquito bites can be extremely harmful and potentially lethal. Mosquitoes are, indeed, a problem that needs to be dealt with. City departments aren’t equipped to handle the infestations and rely on the abatement district.
“We have noticed an increase in postings of individuals who are concerned with mosquitoes,” the city posted. “The city is in the process of adjusting its park watering schedule to try to minimize the standing water that occurs during the irrigation process. Additionally, the city is working with the East Side Mosquito Abatement District to spray areas of concern. Despite these efforts we anticipate that mosquitoes will still be present throughout town when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk, and especially for the first two hours after sunset.”
The city included a link to information about how to prevent mosquito bites and West Nile.
It’s not the first time this has happened at the dog park. I wrote about a similar incident in 2012, and the result was the same: The city promised to readjust the sprinkler system and call in a mosquito-abatement crew.
Rolano Avila, whose duties with the city’s parks division include trying to monitor the watering schedules of the parks and the dog park, said he went to inspect the dog park Wednesday morning after learning of the swarm. He said he constantly has to adjust the watering schedules upon the changing temperatures, and because the Bridle Ridge area on the west side of town is built on hard-pan soil that doesn’t absorb so well. The dog park rotates its 40 watering stations from 8 p.m. to midnight, he said.
But, he said, the park or any of the others in the housing area aren’t the sources of the mosquito hatches.
“We’re surrounded by ag lands,” he said. “From what I’ve been able to learn, mosquitoes don’t breed where the water is disturbed (and dogs running around would disturb the wet ground). All of the residents want to blame the park, but it isn’t the breeding ground.”
What is, then?
“We’re surrounded by ag lands,” he said. “There are cattle and horses across the road. There is flood irrigation and ponds.”
The people and animals who visit the parks offer easy targets to the mosquitoes and their friends — thousands of them.
Residents of the area, including Monica Harris, believe the city is overwatering and cites the park near her home as a prime example.
“It’s soppy every morning,” she said. “You can’t even use it. We’re supposed to be in a drought. Everyone’s frustrated. Why are we conserving water when they are doing that? You go there at 4 p.m. and its still soppy. No one seems to be concerned.”
Avila, though, said that just as he gets calls about overwatering some park areas, he gets calls about dry patches of grass in others.
“They wonder what we’re going to do about those,” he said.
The answer is the same as it was two years ago: They’ll keep adjusting the sprinkler systems. They’ll keep calling the mosquito abatement folks to spray. Keep reminding people to wear repellent. The people will keep posting on the incident feed page.
The mosquitoes, however, never seem to get the message.