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Davis

Davis, California

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

South Fork Preserve Open Space opened on May 21 with public accessibility improvements 

New walking paths, signage and seating areas aim to make the preserve more inclusive to people with physical disabilities

 

By RIDDHI PURANIK — city@theaggie.org

 

This spring, the city of Davis completed a series of improvements to the public accessibility of the South Fork Preserve. These improvements were made available to residents on May 21 with a grand opening ceremony. 

According to the city of Davis website, the public accessibility improvements include “a new gravel trail that is accessible to people with disabilities, a short boardwalk and large creek overlook, new walking and seasonal trails through the preserve’s riparian habitat, 10 new interpretive panels, new trail signage, trail improvements and natural seating areas.” 

These improvements make a larger section of the Open Space Preserve more accessible to people with physical disabilities, like the new gravel trail, which is built on geocells that will provide a safer surface for wheelchair users. 

Tracie Reynolds, Manager of the Leases and Open Space Program, commented on why the city felt it was important to make the above improvements. 

“We noticed that none of our Open Spaces were accessible to people with disabilities,”

Reynolds said. “We removed the old gravel trail and replaced it with geocells…[which provides] the experience of walking on a gravel path while also being accessible for wheelchairs.”

According to the city of Davis website, “The improvements were needed to protect the preserve’s sensitive habitat and provide the public with more views of the creek.”

In 2017, the city was awarded a $230,000 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to fund public accessibility improvements at South Fork Preserve. The website also details that the preserve was acquired by the city in 1993 when the land still contained row crops. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planted several trees and shrubs to restore the land’s natural beauty, which allowed it to become the habitat that it is now. 

In the press release issued by the city of Davis, Mayor Gloria Partida commented on the reopening of the space.  

“South Fork Preserve Open Space allows our community to commune with nature locally,” Partida said. “I am especially grateful that the main trail and overlook of the preserve are now open to people with disabilities.”

At South Fork Preserve, one can take a walk, run through different facets of nature, view birds and wildlife, learn about the area through interpretive panels that are placed alongside trails or take a tour that is offered by the Putah Creek Council. 

Reynolds explained that improvements to the Open Space were prompted by the limited accessibility features of its trail system, as well as a lack of signage on its trails, which led to the habitat “suffering from the effects of unrestricted access to sensitive areas,” according to the project description

“Because the trails weren’t marked, people walked wherever they wanted,” Reynolds said. “The problem with that is that it degraded the habitat. It caused erosion in certain areas, at the edges of the creek. Making the trails more obvious, adding signage was an effort to direct people towards the trail and away from areas we are trying to preserve.”

The Open Space Program in Davis was established in 1990 to implement policies that protect the farmlands and habitat areas that surround the community. At present, the Open Space Program actively maintains 240 acres of open space for the residents of Davis and wildlife species, with South Fork Preserve being the largest at 110 acres. 

In a commission meeting for the Open Space and Habitat Commission on May 2, Reynolds invited members of the meeting and city council representatives to the grand re-opening of the South Fork Preserve Open Space. 

For those interested in visiting South Fork Preserve Open Space, the route follows Mace Boulevard south until it runs into County Road 104. Visitors can then travel about 1.5 miles from the city limit on Montgomery Avenue. The preserve is located on the left after crossing over the South Fork of Putah Creek. Visitors can park in the small gravel parking lot or along County Road 104. 

 

Written by: Riddhi Puranik — city@theaggie.org