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Davis, California

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

UC Davis and City of Davis receive Urban Greening Grant

The east end of the UC Davis Arboretum is scheduled to be remodeled in the early summer of 2013. The California Strategic Grant Growth Council recently donated $891,000 for the addition of a California Native Collection to the empty field that currently sits behind the parking lot of Davis Commons.

The garden will be centered around species native to the Central Valley and will include thematic elements that encourage sustainability and appreciation of local flora.

The project was also funded $40,000 by the Municipal Art Fund to create a symbolic “gateway” between downtown and UC Davis that will include a sculpture by artist Christopher Fennel, who was selected from a pool of 63 applicants for his work with recycled material. In addition, the parking lot of Davis Commons will be reconstructed to create a new pedestrian pathway that will run directly from the Commons into the Arboretum.
UC Davis Assistant Director of Horticulture Emily Griswold hopes that the new installments will transform the empty lot into a flourishing point of interest.
“This is kind of our prime opportunity for this space which has been neglected and [to] make it into a destination place, or a kind major entry into the Arboretum,” she said.  “Because the site is connected to the city greenbelt system and bikeways, and is the closest place the Arboretum gets to downtown, we have this unique opportunity to connect the campus to the city.”
The new garden is designed to celebrate the wildlife native to the region. Large trees will define the perimeter of the field, which will be filled with small meadows to form the center space. A central swale will drain the site into the Arboretum waterway.
“A lot of people come to Davis and have no idea what was here before,” Griswold said. “Personally, I think it’s really important to have a demonstration of our local native plants. They’re so underappreciated and not even known about.”
The plot of land will also be regraded into a shallower slope which will allow easier wheelchair and pedestrian access from the walkway into the Arboretum.
Another key issue planned to be addressed is the storm water management. The waterway used to be a former channel of Putah Creek, but has since become an elongated pond having been disconnected from the larger water system. The lack of current, coupled with the nutrients from runoff and soil erosion, allows large algal blooms to float to the surface of the water in large, green mats.
“We’re going to be working with water experts on how to deal with this problem,”  Griswold said. “Because it’s disconnected from the live Putah Creek, any flow must be done with pumping. Ideally we’re going to have a scenario with pumps connected to a solar array. This has been one of the most difficult issues to manage and we’re going to have to take into account various engineering criteria, maintaining the health of the collections, as well as a significant amount of money.”
Jennifer McKenzie, a junior majoring in Wildlife Fish and Conservation Biology who works almost daily in the Arboretum, is excited for the new development.
“I think any attempt to get the Arboretum getting back to a native plant community is a good thing, especially for the organisms,” she said. “It will be a more informative and more valuable teaching tool if it’s a healthier ecosystem.”
The Arboretum expansion will also tie into a larger, citywide effort at urban beautification.

John Natsoulas, owner of the John Natsoulas Gallery located on the corner of First and E Street, works closely with the Davis Transmedia Artwalk, which was recently expanded to 16 sculptures and two murals and will feature tours guided by smartphone technology.

“The gateway is going to link the town, just like the Artwalk. That will be the predecessor,” he said.
Holistically, the Gateway and California Native Garden projects are only a few in a number of initiatives to make the Arboretum more accessible and capable of facilitating academic pursuit. Other future initiatives include additions to the Cole facility and a new parking lot located at the West End entrance.
“We want to make more meaningful landscapes around the academic departments that make more public the work of UC Davis,”  Griswold said.

ADAM KHAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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