Habitat for wildlife and amenities for pedestrians, bicyclists and pets are among the possibilities for the North Davis Channel, Davis' only flowing creek. The Putah Creek Council's North Davis Riparian Greenbelt project will create 17 acres of publicly accessible habitat in an urban storm water channel. Courtesy photo

Local News

Putah Creek Council launches project in Davis’ back yard

By From page A1 | December 28, 2012

Weigh in

What: Community input meeting

When: 7-9 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 15

Where: Blanchard Room, Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St., Davis

A local volunteer group is looking to the community for input on how best to turn Davis’ only flowing creek, the North Davis Channel, into a wildlife magnet and an aesthetically pleasing commuter route.

Putah Creek Council’s North Davis Riparian Greenbelt project will create 17 acres of publicly accessible habitat in an urban storm water channel. It is a collaboration between the council and the city of Davis, McCord Environmental, Yolo Resource Conservation District, Center For Land-Based Learning and volunteers from UC Davis and the community.

Libby Earthman, executive director of the Putah Creek Council, said the pathway alongside the waterway has long been used by neighbors to bike, jog, walk dogs and watch birds. While her volunteer-based organization has taken the reins of the greenbelt’s betterment, it was the brainchild of one of those regular visitors.

Mark Woerner, a local resident whose house is near the channel, may have always been the project’s biggest proponent. It was his idea to improve the local channel through plant propagation, something he thought of while on a run along Sacramento’s tree-laden American River Parkway.

“It occurred to me that maybe the Davis channel would be an appropriate place to develop a similar habitat,” Woerner said. “When I shared that thought with others who were using the facility, I received an outpour of encouragement.”

He took it upon himself to start growing native plants in his back yard, which faces the waterway, in the fall of 2007. His goal was to make it a more inviting area for both people and wildlife, but he approached the Putah Creek Council for help when he realized that 1.25 miles of channel was too large a task for one man.

“I was just the guy out there — diggin’ in the dirt. They were the ones who made it happen,” Woerner said. “While I can do a little bit of work, they can move it along in ways I couldn’t hope to achieve.”

The storm water channel’s primarily purpose is flood conveyance. All of the rainwater in West Davis drains into the West Area Ponds, which spill over Covell Boulevard into the channel, which passes alongside North Davis and out past the Wildhorse Golf Club.

Putah Creek Council’s mission — besides attracting people, pollinating insects and birds — is to instill urban greening-specific benefits in the area, including buffers to prevent water pollution and bike paths to reduce emissions from car commuting.

These benefits, along with creek’s close proximity to a densely populated residential area, allowed for application to the California Natural Resources Agency’s Urban Greening Grant Program. The request was granted in 2010, and the project was funded for approximately $750,000.

This grant was made possible through Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2007, which authorizes $5.388 billion in general obligation bonds to fund waterway protection, among other things.

With the resources in hand, Earthman said, Putah Creek Council launched its project to improve the stretch of flowing water. She said the channel’s value was apparent the day they did a walking tour with representatives from the funding agency.

“As we were describing what we wanted to do, a school class walked by, then a family with strollers and then a woman in a wheelchair. We didn’t queue any of those people,” Earthman said, breaking into a laugh. “It really does get used by everyone.”

The project is intended to become part of a community-driven process. The first open meeting for its initial planning is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in the Blanchard Room at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. in Davis.

Stephen McCord, Putah Creek Council board member and project manager, said the first component — the planting — is expected to start in fall 2013. The project may be at least another two years from culmination.

“Right now, we’re just in the getting-the-word-out phase,” McCord said. “We’ve got preliminary designs or thoughts on what we want to do, but we definitely want to get community input on it.

“We’ll be talking to people about setting up a Friends of the North Davis Channel. Even naming it North Davis Channel is not attractive or interesting for the waterway, so we’ll be talking about coming up with a better name.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett


Brett Johnson

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