The City of Davis and the UC Davis Arboretum are convening a community meeting this Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. to gather feedback regarding the planned improvements that will occur to the Putah Parkway and the east end of the Arboretum.
The meeting will allow the public to voice its opinions on the designs in order to improve the outcome, and make sure that the designs meet the needs of the community.
The first hour of the event will include a walk onsite with project designers. The walk will assemble at the back of the Davis Commons parking lot. At 2 p.m., there will be a community design workshop at the University Park Inn and Suites at 1111 Richards Blvd.
Known as the Greening Project, it has been in planning and design phases for the last two years since the city was awarded an Urban Greening Project Grant of $891,304 from the California Strategic Growth Council.
“The idea started since the Arboretum got a grant to make a native plant garden so that it can connect with the Davis community and a welcoming door to downtown,” said Emily Griswold, the director of GATEways (Gardens, Arts and the Environment) Horticulture and Teaching Gardens. “We found out that there’s this [Urban Greening Project Grant] program. [We] started thinking that this could be a way to extend the reach between this project and strengthen the Arboretum to the city.”
The Greening Project includes a 5-acre area, which includes 3.5 acres of the Putah Creek Parkway that has a bike pathway west of Olive Drive and the bike tunnel for I-80.
“Through surveys and our experiences interacting with campus and community partners, we have found that there is a lot of visitor and academic interest in native plants,” said Carmia Feldman, the assistant director of the UC Davis Arboretum. “There is a big emphasis on localism these days — eating local food, supporting local businesses — and a part of that is also understanding the local environment. We realized that we didn’t have a part of the Arboretum that really focused on our local environment and plant communities, so this garden will fill that gap.”
The garden, which Feldman referred to, is the leftover 1.5 acres of the 5 acres at the east end of the Arboretum near Aggie Village and the Davis Commons shopping center. The garden will be a new California-native plant garden focused on plants native to the Putah Creek watershed.
“The idea with that site [Putah Creek] is to restore native plants to that area so people can get better sense of what vegetation would have looked like in Davis. This side will almost feel like a nature trail,” Griswold said. “We have the garden here that is focused with native plants as well. This would be an artistic interpretation. Our goal is to inspire people about the beauty of the native plants.”
Environmental improvements are a huge part of the project as well.
There will be habitat enhancements for native wildlife and insects, trees for shade and carbon sequestration, and improved treatment of stormwater runoff. Specifically for the treatment of the storm water runoff, a rain garden will be built, which will catch the rainwater before it goes into the storm system.
One of the main highlights for both the UC Davis Arboretum and the City of Davis is the collaboration between the two as well as having an easier and more accessible entrance to the Arboretum.
“What is really exciting for me is strengthening the connection between the Arboretum and the city,” Griswold said. “Often people don’t know what the Arboretum is. We can strengthen that connection so that people can benefit and use this place.”
Griswold and Feldman emphasized that the connection to the city and the Arboretum is lacking. There is no clear-cut, straight path that leads to the Arboretum. A huge part of the Greening Project is to establish this connection by building an arc to the entrance as well as straightening the path from the Davis Commons shopping center to the Arboretum.
“I believe that the Arboretum is [a] unique feature of Davis that you don’t have on other campuses,” said Angelica Degnan, a second-year genetics major. “It definitely would make it more accessible if there were a walkway that would go directly to town. It would be nice.”
Additionally, the project will include increasing the visibility of the bike path so there are fewer blind spots. Safety regulations to bike and pedestrian circulation will also be improved, according to Feldman.
Construction will begin this summer. Even before construction begins, volunteers will be needed to clean up trash on the Putah Creek path. In the fall, community planting days and other events will be scheduled to help in the transformation of the Arboretum.
“The goal is to make this space a learning environment, to raise awareness of native plants and their importance of it, as well as the story of the creek,” Griswold said.
KAMILA KUDELSKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.