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!