For the most part, the greenhouses at the L. A. Moran Reforestation Center have been empty and quiet since 2003, but a unique arrangement with an environmental group is breathing new life into them.
The nursery at the center on Chiles Road is going back into operation to grow tree seedlings and grasses for planting in their native habitat along Putah Creek. The center is owned and operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), but this operation is independent and work will be done by volunteers.
The new nursery operation is part of a broader effort to restore large expanses of land along Putah Creek that have been damaged and invaded by weeds. Several groups are involved in the restoration process, including the Putah Creek Council, Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, and the UC Davis chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology.
As many as 10,000 native tree seedlings and 50,000 plugs of native grass will be grown over the next year in the space.
The L. A. Moran Reforestation Center closed partially in 2003 when state funding was cut. Before then, it was used to help Cal Fire in its reforestation efforts.
“Our site once housed a nursery where we grew conifer seedlings, as many as 400,000 a year,” said Terry Griffith, a staff member at the center.
Those seedlings were grown for smaller private groups or individuals and for government entities, such as UC Davis, Griffith said. Although that nursery portion is no longer in operation, the center houses a state-run seed bank which stores millions of dollars worth of seeds belonging to the state and private entities.
The arrangement allowing the Putah Creek groups to use the space is somewhat unique.
Rich Marovich, the streamkeeper with the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, noticed that the facility seemed unused, so he called the staff to see if some kind of agreement could be worked out allowing his group to grow native plants there. Cal Fire was interested in the partnership because it was beneficial for them too, he said.
“There’s always concern that an idle facility will be sold off and they’ll lose the capacity,” he said.
The agreement was applauded by state representative Lois Wolk, who said in the Davis Enterprise that it would provide a big boost to preservation efforts.
“In allowing local use of this nursery facility, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is not only aiding in local restoration efforts, but is also maximizing the use of a state facility in lean budget times,” she said.
Wolk is a member of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
The restoration groups will be utilizing 10,000 square feet of shadehouse and an older glass greenhouse that sat unused even before 2003.
“They don’t build very many of those anymore because they’re expensive, but it’s the ultimate greenhouse,” Marovich said.
The seedlings raised at the site will be planted in various places along the Putah Creek watershed, but not in the part of the creek that runs through campus.
“We’re planting a hedge row on 3 miles on Putah Creek Road near Winters,” he said. “There are scattered other sites along the creek. We’ve focused a lot of our efforts to date on controlling invasive weeds, but now that we’re getting the upper hand we’re creating more space for planting native vegetation too.”
Marovich said he will be looking for community volunteers to help fill flats and tend to the seedlings.
“For people who want to learn about native plants I think there’s going to be some great opportunities for volunteering,” he said. “We started out growing mostly native grasses, but we’re starting to branch out into wildflowers and more tree and shrub production.”
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.