Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Locals hear, see details of North Davis channel

Section 1 of the North Davis Riparian Greenbelt runs along the northern edge of Northstar and south of the homes on Westfield Terrace in North Davis Farms. Courtesy sketch

From page A1 | March 27, 2013 |

Proposed designs for the North Davis Riparian Greenbelt, based on input from local residents, were unveiled at a public meeting Monday evening hosted by the Putah Creek Council.

The plans call for an estimated 150 trees to be planted — down from the more than 800 trees that had originally been planned for — invasive weeds and brush to be removed and pollinators like milkweed to be introduced along the creek, which runs along the northern city limits behind homes in Northstar.

More than 30 Davis residents gathered Monday in the Veterans’ Memorial Center’s Club Room for an opportunity to review the plans, which separate the creek into five sections. Each had a corresponding visual map, pinpointing where each tree, shrub or native plant would be placed.

The detailed images were made possible through the work of volunteers and technology. The many dots that covered the charts — each symbolizing a different type of plant — were mapped by volunteers carrying GPS units, over a series of days.

The visual presentation allowed for more hands-on feedback from the community, with people placing sticky notes bearing their ideas on specific portions of the map. Residents whose homes back up to the channel were encouraged to speak out if they don’t want trees blocking the view from their back yards.

Much of the project thus far has been driven by the comments accumulated at meetings and in emails and letters, which were synthesized onto a large poster on the room’s wall. Tables also were set up for more individual remarks on areas of concern, including fire, flood and access.

Libby Earthman, executive director of the Putah Creek Council, began the evening by briefly responding to a few of the major concerns. She mentioned that the threat of flood problems is being analyzed by a licensed, professional engineer.

Given that fire concerns have been just as much at the forefront, Earthman said, a lot of work has gone into ensuring the plants will be fire-safe. She added that the North Davis Creek will remain accessible to kids and dog-walking locals just as it was before.

Stephen McCord, a Putah Creek Council board member and project manager, had mentioned in a previous Enterprise interview that he anticipated — or at least hoped — that the locals who attended this open house would affirm that their concerns had been addressed.

“I think it will take some time to come together and organize all we’ve gotten tonight,” McCord said near the meeting’s end, “but so far, I’m not hearing anything that we haven’t heard before and taken into account — so that’s good.”

Mitch Sears, sustainability program manager for the city of Davis, has been involved with the project throughout, and praised it for its outreach to local residents. He said beginning with a slate of community agreement makes for less work down the line.

“In that way, we’re already moving in the right direction,” Sears added. “We don’t have to go back after the fact — once it’s complete — and worry about modifying things. There should be no retrofitting required.”

But before any planting work begins, an engineering review and permits from both the city and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board need to be complete. The city of Davis fire marshal also has to evaluate the channel’s fire hazard.

Later in April, the project’s final draft will be presented to the city’s Open Space and Habitat Commission and then the Davis City Council. With the green light from both of those parties, planting may begin as early as the fall.

“It’s a well-loved area,” Sears said, “and we’re glad to give it some basic enhancements so people can continue to enjoy it.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett



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