Toads of Davis


The nicest package arrived the other day: Amy, a reader, had sent us a note welcoming us back to California with her mother’s copy of the children’s book, The Toads of Davis


The story is one that’s familiar to me from my years as an undergraduate here: back in the mid-nineties, Davis constructed a “toad tunnel” intended to serve as an underpass for toads who’s usual route to wetlands was being disrupted by the construction of a major highway. Kind of crazy, right?! But also really sweet.

It’s a true story, but it’s also a matter of emblematic Davis lore, an example given to describe Davis’s progressive nature. The mayor at the time, Julie Partansky (who I remember seeing on her bike around town and who I was sorry to learned passed away a few years ago), proposed a lot of “characteristically Davis” measures: enacting a light ordinance to minimize light pollution and better stargazing, planting public fruit trees for the homeless, and–famously–a well-intentioned but little-used toad tunnel.

Yes, apparently the toads never really used the tunnel (and those that finally did, once they illuminated it to try and mimic the night-sky, may have been picked off by birds) and the tunnel was made famous when it was lampooned on The Daily Show. The clip is hilarious: Colbert–who looks about 25–interviews Partansky.

I always did admire those intentions. There’s something awfully nice about a town that worries about its toads. Thanks, Amy, for reminding me!


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