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Public Service Research Program

Community Rediscovers Putah Creek

Residents along Putah Creek didnít think much about the ecosystem in their own back yard until UC Davis graduate students taught local children how to restore the creek's natural beauty. With community support from the Putah Creek Council and the Solano County Water Agency, the locals discovered a resource that provided hours of fun and educational activities.

Webcast: Real Player, Windows Media, 3:10 minutes

Paul Pfotenhauer, producer; Ken Zukin, videographer (2006)


[Deb Niemeier:] Hi, I’m Deb Niemeier and I’m director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment. One of the most important responsibilities an institute like John Muir has is to partner with local communities to solve environmental challenges. For example, this housing area, near Winters, has one of the most beautiful ‘backyards’ in all of Yolo County and just over here, beyond the trees, is where the story of the Putah Creek watershed restoration project really begins.

[Paul Pfotenhauer:] Not so long ago this part of Putah Creek was full of weeds, trash and dangerous slopes. Recognizing the need to improve the habitat for humans and wildlife the county agencies partnered with UC Davis to solve this environmental eyesore.

[Olga Garzon:] By the end of this year we’re hoping that this whole area will be clear of weeds and we’re going to plant native grasses.

[Paul Pfotenhauer:] Olga Garzon, trained by the UC Davis John Muir Institute of the Environment, developed a restoration plan with the 400 people who live here.

[Olga Garzon:] The community involvement was really great. We were able to get their ideas and sit together and be able to create a plan that works both for the restoration and for the community.

[Pelayo Alverez:] These plants are nonnative, they don’t belong here, and they kill the other guys, they kill the other plants that provide food and shelter for the animals.

[Paul Pfotenhauer:] Every week Pelayo Alverez, a UC Davis ecology graduate student, conducts hands on activities with the children so they learn the importance of maintaining a healthy habitat.

[Pelayo Alverez:] What’s really gratifying for me, as a graduate student, is being able to bring all that I’ve learned in the books and going to class and help these people become stewards of the creek.

[Maria Melendez:] For me it’s a really good thing that they’re doing because they’re just trying to keep this place clean and teaching the little kids how to have a good neighborhood, clean, like a good environment.

[Paul Pfotenhauer:] For these projects to succeed community partnerships are necessary.

[Dawn Lindstrom:] Partnering among all these groups really allows us to work together, bring our different strengths into that partnership, and really make it a more active process and community driven process.

[Paul Pfotenhauer:] Richard Marovich is an expert in how streams flow and he’s worked closely with UC Davis fish scientists in getting salmon to return to this creek. The team of experts was able to accomplish this by increasing the flows from the dam and rocks that salmon need for spawning were added to sections of the creek.

[Rich Marovich:] The value that we get from the university is fantastic. We get leadership from top notch scientists, we get graduate students out in the field in greater numbers than we could ever afford to hire. We’re getting fabulous monitoring data not only of fish but of birds. We’re finding that Putah Creek has far more value to wildlife than was previously known.

[Paul Pfotenhauer:] The residents, especially the children, are actively involved in the restoration efforts of planting, weeding, mulching and monitoring the health of the creek. The John Muir Community Liaison Project is designed to involve partners who are able to focus on accomplishing something of value together and so far they have been very productive.