By Barbara Grady-
Behind its huge, brightly lit score board, in the turf receiving the pounding hoofs of galloping horses and in other places at Golden Gate Fields, new energy and water saving materials have been installed and are turning traditions of this 68-year-old horse racing venue on its head. Golden Gate Fields has gone green.
In the beginning of this season, 10,000 incandescent light bulbs were removed from its score board and replaced with a lower energy use liquid crystal display system. Earlier, a water guzzling dirt track was replaced with turf that is a mixture of ash and wax that doesn’t need water – and is kinder to horses’ hoofs. Electronic betting terminals have been retuned to shut down automatically when not in use. In the kitchens, cooking grease is collected in special containers, filtered, and set aside for a bio-diesel fuel manufacturer to pick up. And outside, a race-track operated shuttle service from the Berkeley BART is cutting down on traffic and automobile emissions.
These and other measures won Golden Gate Fields a “StopWaste Business Efficiency Award” from the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board for 2009. At an event Oct. 16, the county agencies named 12 large Alameda County businesses “whose leadership and continuous efforts to improve environmental performance and business efficiency have achieved outstanding results,” said Justin Justin Justin Lehrer, program manager of Alameda County’s StopWaste.org program.
Golden Gate Fields initiated its greening efforts two years ago when it hired Roy Roenbeck as its safety and environmental compliance director and decided to make a thorough environmental review of the race track operations.
In a facility-wide pollution prevention and resource conservation program, “We identified and quantified the waste streams in every operation,” Roenbeck said. All those waste streams and measures to reduce them are codified into a matrix and measurements taken as waste is reduced.
It did the obvious things first such as setting up recycling bins in the areas frequented by patrons and using garbage can liners that are more friendly to the environment. But as the program grew, Golden Gate Fields resource conversation measures include such reuse measures as sending its used hay from stables to a farm Watsonville which uses it as soil enricher. At end of the summer race season it moved 103 tons of that hay to Montery Mushroom. It replaced all snack and food containers with 100 percent recycled biodegradable containers. While the change over to a non-dirt turf on the track was required off all race tracks by racing authorities concerned about horse injuries, doing so reduced water consumption at Golden Gate Fields maintenance department by 85 percent.
“This is fairly aggressive plan for a facility of this era, the 1940s,” said Roy Roenbeck, director of safety and environmental compliance at Golden Gate Fields. His position was
But one thing Golden Gate Fields has not done is taken steps to green up a large unused parking lot that many people in Albany have wished could be converted into open space or grassy playing fields for a city short of both. The lot, adjacent to the waterfront, is an overflow parking lot on busy days at Golden Gate Fields but is rarely used.
The fate of that lot has soured relations between the Albany community and Golden Gate Fields at various times through the years. The City of Albany considered zoning change requests for that area from a developer who proposed buying it and turning it into an outdoor shopping center and hotel. After many community members opposed the idea of commercial development of the area, the developer withdrew his plans.