One of Yolo County’s regional parks just doubled in size, thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Air Force.
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of the Davis Global Communications Site (DGCS) from the military to the county on Oct. 28. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger initially approved the plan on Oct. 15.
Formerly a U.S. Air Force site in the 1950s, the area‘s buildings and property have remained vacant for many years. The 314-acre site is 4 miles south of Davis on Mace Boulevard and will be converted to expand the 300-acre Grasslands Regional Park in order to protect valuable natural resources and threatened and endangered species.
“There are a lot of aspects of the site that make it a real jewel,” Petrea Marchand, intergovernmental affairs manager for the county.
“Thanks to the cooperation of the Air Force we were able to make sure that this land is will be preserved and not put on the market.“
Some of the land is so fragile that 170 acres of it will be completely preserved and not available for public use. Threatened and endangered species such as the Swainson‘s hawk, Tadpole Shrimp, White-tailed Kite, Loggerhead Shrike, Colusa Grass and the rare Solano grass inhabit the area.
The Air Force will be providing $750,000 for the demolition of the remaining Air Force buildings on the site, while the county’s General Services Department will oversee contractor bidding. The county hopes to demolish the site by the spring. The building of the park will require more grant money, possibly from the California State Parks and the Wildlife Conservation Board in order to eradicate invasive plant species.
“This was a very bipartisan effort,“ said Parks Division manager Scott Lines. “It‘s taken over a decade only because there are so many steps to this process. It went faster than most do though.“
A celebratory ceremony outside of the site on Friday featured California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, state representative Mike Thomspon, county supervisor Mariko Yamada and the representatives from the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“You don‘t know how delighted I am that this is happening just as I am leaving office. There have been many, many people (who) have worked on this … so I‘m delighted that the transfer is finally occurring,” Yamada said in The Davis Enterprise.
Thompson, who helped the county obtain the site, said it was a great site that will provide hands-on experience in environmental learning.
“Not only that but it will help in important protection recovery of endangered species,” he said. “Every level of government worked cooperatively together.“
Though the land now belongs to the county, the site will not be available for public use until environmental cleanup is complete.
The county will monitor the land due to organically contaminated and petroleum-contaminated groundwater underneath the site as well as asbestos and lead, making the Air Force liable for these issues until they reach acceptable public health standards. According to county parks director Warren Westrup, 55 acres will be under more intensive monitoring.
The Land Use Covenant currently restricts use of the groundwater, excavation and prohibits residences, daycares and hospitals from being built on the land. The cleanup is expected to take $3.1 million and about five years to complete. Wells on the site can only be used to suppress fires.
“The water is currently not suitable for drinking, and it would have a long term effect [if consumed],” said supervising water resource control engineer Antonia Borster.
Although the site will not be available to the public until the demolition and cleanup are done, people will still have visual access to wildflowers and grasslands on the site.
The county plans to build trails, boardwalks and feature education-based research opportunities for schools in conservation areas.
“Interpretive signs will be a great way to educate and tell the stories of different species in these sensitive habitats,“ Westrup said.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.