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Public Service Research Program

Photo: Biologist with Youth Check Traps

Biologist with Youth Check Traps

Watershed Restoration, Stewardship, and Community Participation

A riparian restoration project is underway along Putah Creek in and near Winters California, lead by the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee. Since both the City of Winters and the nearby Yolo County Housing (YCH) site are adjacent to the creek and have public access, involving residents in education and restoration activities is desirable. An objective is to facilitate community leadership and long term stewardship. The YCH site houses more than one hundred families, most of whom are Spanish-speaking. This site has been the primary focus of Liaison work.

UC Davis students have served as Community Liaisons throughout the restoration project, working with the YCH community and soliciting their feedback. Liaisons are Spanish-speaking. They serve as a link between the community and the agencies involved in the project and engage the community in the restoration project through environmental education activities and coordinating resident participation. The residents, especially the children, have been actively involved in planting trees and native grasses and helping in creek clean-ups, weed removal activities, and monitoring invertebrate populations in the creek. Adults, working particularly with Liaison Olga Garzon, have been involved in designing the creek-side landscape, planting trees, and in cleaning the creek.

Mentoring the 10-20 youth who attend a weekly after-school program has been an important part of the work. With an emphasis on place-based learning, educational activities are conducted weekly at the community center on site. Activities are hands-on and geared towards the younger members of the community. Activities include learning about riparian ecology, salmon life cycles, habitat restoration, invasive species, and wetlands. Recent Liaison, Pelayo Alvarez, and teenagers from the community took a field trip to Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve to enhance the place-based aspect of the educational activities and to put the restoration project in the wider context of the entire watershed.

This fall, new Liaison, Thelma Garcia led the children in activities exploring chemical factors related to the creek, particularly the interaction of water and air pollution with Putah Creek. With the development of a butterfly garden with the residents, the after school club will next learn about insect-plant interactions.

The next stage of the project, under Liaison Thelma Garcia, is to expand to the City of Winters and engage with the Latina/o community there to involve residents in education, restoration, and stewardship activities. The City of Winters is developing its Putah Creek Nature Park and is interested in providing opportunities for recreation and education for all community members.

Project Challenge/Research Question: In what ways does involving a liaison in a local community increase stewardship in environmental restoration, especially with youth?

Liaisons: Thelma Garcia, Chemistry, PhD program (2006-07)
Olga Garzon, Landscape Design consultant (2004-07), LDA undergraduate (2004)
Megan Harns, Education, Masters in Teacher Education program (2004-07)
Pelayo Alvarez, Ecology, PhD program (2005-06)
Liz Esper, Community Development, Masters program (2003)

Site: Putah Creek, Winters, Yolo County, CA. Winters is a small rural agricultural community along Putah Creek and fifteen miles from UC Davis. The Yolo County Housing site is a mile outside of the City of Winters. Both communities are ethnically and socio-economically diverse.

Partners: Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, Yolo County Housing, Putah Creek Council, Audubon California, Students for Land-based Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS), City of Winters, Putah Creek Discovery Corridor Cooperative, and others.

Associated Projects/Research: Putah Creek restoration, led by the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee (Rich Marovich); UC Davis fish studies (Peter Moyle); WaterWays, water education program.

Project Time Line: 2003 - 2007

Funding: Solano County Water Agency ("Community-based Restoration of Lower Putah Creek" CALFED grant)

Multimedia Feature: Community Rediscovers Putah Creek

Residents along Putah Creek didn't 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.   Read more and view the Web cast . . .