In 2017, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) deeded a 5-acre parcel of land to the City of Winters (City) to use as public open space. The property, located within the City limits, is between the PG&E Gas Training Academy, a large privately-owned parcel to the west, and Putah Creek. The parcel was modified to serve as a stormwater drainage canal for a small area of adjacent land. Before transfer of ownership, PG&E constructed a private access road and walking path around the canal, seeded a mix of native California perennial grasses in the canal and installed irrigation valves for future plantings. The City has asked Putah Creek Council (Council) to propose a project to enhance the site for wildlife habitat and community use as public open space. Its location directly adjacent to Putah Creek provides a valuable opportunity to restore upland habitat and build on the educational activities and interpretive features planned for the Winters Putah Creek Nature Park, as well as extend the Putah Creek Nature Park and connect it to the walking path along CA Highway 128.
The goal of the Putah Creek Nature Park Extension Project (Park Extension) is to convert a parcel consisting of a stormwater drainage canal and former farmland into oak woodland and upland riparian habitat, which will support a diverse array of wildlife and serve as an open space for Winters residents. In addition, this project will increase opportunities for active and passive environmental education, primarily in the form of facilitated student projects and interpretive signage. The site will be planted with a dominant overstory of Valley oak (Quercus lobata), and will include interior live oak (Q. wislizeni), western redbud (Cercis occidentalis), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) coffeeberry (Frangula californica), California buckeye (Aesculus californica), California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), and an understory of native perennial grasses. The upland riparian strip will be planted with Valley oak, California buckeye, western sycamore (Platanus racemosa) with an understory of California wild rose (Rosa californica), California pipevine (Aristolochia californica), California grape (Vitis californica), and native perennial grasses. The pollinator garden will be dominated by perennial and annual flowering plants, with an overstory of pollinator-friendly shrubs such as coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis), toyon, and skunk bush (Rhus aromatica).
A significant component of this project will be active environmental education of student groups participating in restoration activities during field trips to the project site. The Park Extension will host student groups ranging from elementary to high school, facilitating student learning about concepts such as native flora and fauna, restoration practices, and ethnobotanical uses of native plants. Additionally, the Park Extension will be included in a broader park-wide plan of installing interpretive features designed to educate visitors about concepts such as pollinator use of featured plants, water quality, native flora and fauna, and the natural history of this region. This site will include two interpretive panels, with an intent of increasing the number of panels throughout the park as additional funding is secured. These panels and other signs will complement future educational activities.