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Monday, September 20, 2021

Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve restored after Wragg fire

CAL FIRE / COURTESY
CAL FIRE / COURTESY

Efforts continue to restore the reserve, open it to public as soon as possible. 

The UC Davis Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, a popular destination for recreation and research, was incinerated by the Wragg fire which broke out in late July. The fire quickly swept up the Blue Ridge Trail and down into the canyon, which was hastily closed off to its 5,000 annual visitors as a safety precaution. Reserve Manager Jeffrey Clary states that the reserve will remain closed until safety can be ensured.

“Everyone who knows [Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve] loves to go hiking and they want to know what’s going on and when it’s going to open,” Clary said. “The answer is as soon as we can, when it will be safe.”

Although the reserve was a popular hiking destination, it was primarily used for university-level teaching and research. It gave students the opportunity to see what they read in textbooks and participate in hands-on research on the insects and rodents there.

The reserve was used by many researchers, including John Dapinadictus, who originally came to UC Davis to study grape phylloxera, an insect that threatens grapevines. Dapinadictus goes out to the reserve twice a month to study moths. He is now concerned about the species’ survival due to the Wragg fire’s effects on their native habitat.

“The question is will these moths flying this year be able to find food plants to feed the next generation,” Dapinadictus said.

After his recent venture to the reserve last week, Dapinadictus is wary about the safety of other people going to the reserve.

“There are lots of bushes that were scorched but not completely burned; they died and dropped a lot of dry leaves. The non-completely burned plants are now like charcoal, so there is a tremendous fire hazard,” Dapinadictus said.

He is also worried about the steps embedded into the trail that were burned during the fire. They are now charred and could give way when stepped on. Additionally, Dapinadictus is concerned about landslides that could wipe out existing trails.

Captain Joe Fletcher of the Napa County Fire Department says restoring the reserve is an ongoing project. One aspect of restoration will include the Putah watershed, which is primarily responsible for draining water from farm fields. However, it was destroyed in the Wragg fire.

“I am leading a tour this Friday for the county water people so they can study the burned parts of the watershed in Putah Creek,” Fletcher said.

For weeks now, the canyon has been strictly closed to the public, but tours are now being offered to showcase the restoration process.

“It’s a huge opportunity for researching and teaching,” Clary said.

This year is the Natural Reserve System’s 50th anniversary, and to celebrate, a free event will be held at the UC Davis Conference Center on Oct. 23.

“We are dedicating an afternoon to the sciences, arts, teaching and public services embodied by the natural reserves,” said Clary, as clarified in an email. “We’ll also be unveiling our restoration plans for Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, the popular hiking destination […] that burned in one of this summer’s many fires.”

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