Yolo County Parks Division encourages outdoor activities for mental and physical well-being during lockdown
On Dec. 4 the Yolo County Parks Division opened a new 1.25 mile trail and dog park located at 30475 County Road 104, approximately three miles south of the City of Davis at Grasslands Regional Park.
According to a press release, construction on the new trail and dog park was completed with grant money awarded to the Yolo County Parks Division and local funds.
“In 2017 the Yolo County Parks Division was awarded a $107,000 grant from the California State Parks’ Habitat Conservation Fund for construction of a new trail system, parking lot and associated site amenities,” the press release reads. “The County used other local funds for developing the dog park.”
Unlike other dog parks, the 10 acre off-leash dog park adjacent to the trail is a natural environment without a manicured lawn, so visitors are advised to be aware of uneven ground.
Yolo County General Services Department Senior Parks Planner Jeff Anderson explained that the new trail system is a working landscape maintained by livestock which promotes an ecologically healthy environment.
“The county contracts with a local sheepherder to manage the grasslands within the trail system and most of the open area at the park,” Anderson said via email. “Grazing reduces thatch accumulation which promotes native plant growth, improves habitat for western burrowing owls, helps surface water drain toward low-lying areas and reduces invasive species that compete with native grasses and forbs.”
Anderson explained that in addition to its unique working landscape, Grasslands Regional Park is a destination for birdwatchers.
“Raptors, such as Swainson’s hawks, white-tailed kites, northern harriers, and turkey vultures are not uncommon to see in the open areas, and western burrowing owls have also been spotted along the trail system,” Anderson said. “Visitors should also be able to spot rabbits and turkeys from time to time.”
The need for additional trails and a large off-leash dog area was identified through a collaborative effort between members of the public, volunteer groups, county staff and the Parks, Recreation, and Wildlife Advisory Committee, according to Anderson.
“The framework for the trail and dog park was laid out in the 2005 Grasslands Regional Park Master Plan, though the project that was developed was scaled down to a more manageable footprint,” Anderson said. “Prior to the final design of the project, the county held public meetings to gather input from interested parties and ended up revising the design several times to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.”
Anderson explained that the nearly 15-year process required an environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act and grant money from the California State Parks Habitat Conservation Funds in addition to its design and construction.
“These types of projects often take a long time to construct, as we complete the various components with limited staffing,” Anderson said. “The Parks Division has four full-time maintenance workers that split their time between sixteen park locations across the county. The coronavirus pandemic impacted the construction timeline a bit as we had to figure out how to respond to evolving health guidelines and balance priorities throughout our parks system, but we were able to press forward without too much disruption.”
Anderson urged visitors to follow all health guidelines while at the park, including social distancing and wearing a mask.
“Spending time outdoors is extremely beneficial to our physical and mental health but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, people do need to practice health measures like wearing a mask, physical distancing and others,” Anderson said via email. “In order to keep our parks open to the public during this time, it is imperative that visitors follow the CDC guidelines that we are all familiar with by now, including keeping a social distance of at least six feet from individuals outside of their household and wearing masks when six foot distance cannot be maintained.”
The Parks Division is teaming up with local nonprofit, Cache Creek Conservancy and their partners to promote the health benefits of being outdoors, Anderson explained.
“The project aims to work with Yolo County health care providers to prescribe time outdoors as part of a patient’s plan of health care,” Anderson said. “We are in the process of adding Yolo County Parks on the Parks Rx America website as places that can be prescribed for patients to visit.”
Yolo County resident Jesus Rodriguez explained that although he has not heard of the new park opening, he plans to visit it.
“I think that there are a decent amount of places—but more would be great as dog parks can get crowded,” Rodriguez said. “It is especially important to get out during lockdown. It relieves stress on both the dog and the person.”
Anderson encouraged people to visit Grasslands Park throughout the seasons as long as visitors are safe and respectful to both other park-goers and wildlife.
“Wildflowers bloom in the spring and can be found throughout the park, but it is important to the marked trail so as not to disturb grazing sheep, potential burrowing owl habitat, and sensitive plant species,” Anderson said via email. “The Grasslands trail allows visitors to recreate and enjoy nature while keeping a safe distance from one another.”
Written by: Yan Yan Hustis Hayes — email@example.com