A shovel sculpture that has quickly become a local icon, gorgeous murals that pay homage to the importance of oaks, fields of tens of thousands of water-wise plants native to this specific area — these are just a few of the attractions you may have noticed emerging out of a formerly barren field behind the Davis Commons Shopping Center.
How did this once orphaned area become what is now the UC Davis Arboretum GATEway Garden? The answer is simple and at the same time incredibly involved; it took a community.
In celebration of the effort of multiple groups and individuals coming together to create this new outdoor, educational space and much needed connection point between the city and campus, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is inviting the public to a community festival and official dedication of their newest garden this Sunday from 1-3 p.m. (Dedication ceremony from 1:30-1:45 p.m.)
At the festival, attendees will be welcomed to enjoy a variety of activities including guided and self-guided tours, nature-inspired craft-making, singing and theatrical performances by students and community members, in addition to opportunities to speak with staff and volunteers about the “hyper-local” landscape, built-in sustainability features, garden design, and our community’s involvement in its creation.
“It’s safe to say that anywhere you look in the Arboretum GATEway Garden, there’s a story about how our community came together to create it,” explains Kathleen Socolofsky, assistant vice chancellor and director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
“Over 400 shovels were donated by individuals and groups to create our entry sculpture, local artists and community members designed and painted the bike tunnel mural, hundreds of volunteers planted the tens of thousands of plants growing here — this place is a testament to the power of collaboration and co-creation inherent in our community and what we strive to infuse in every project we’re involved in. It’s so unique and worth commemorating with a festival!”
The groups involved range from individual donors and hundreds of volunteers to the City of Davis, the campus Office of the Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, Yolo County Resource Conservation District, Cunningham Engineering, PG&E, TreeDavis, Fulcrum Capital, the City of Davis Civic Arts Commission, City of Davis Open Space and Habitat Commission, Lutsko Associates Landscape Architects, as well as the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. A California Prop. 84 Urban Greening Grant served as a major catalyst for the project and funded many of the improvements to the garden and adjacent Putah Creek Parkway.
With so many moving pieces and groups with a stake in improving the area it’s no wonder it sat vacant for so long, that is until Emily Griswold, director of GATEways horticulture and teaching gardens for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, developed a vision for what the space could be then had the tenacity to get it funded and see it through.
“As a university with leading environmental studies programs, it made sense that we should have an area where we demonstrate some of the most environmentally sound practices in urban landscaping like the restoration of locally native habitats, the use of recycled and repurposed materials, the incorporation of green storm water management systems, and more,” describes Griswold. “It speaks to our core values at the university as well as to the history of the Arboretum.
“But, even if you miss all the environmental significance, and community contributions, it’s just a nice place to stroll around and start your journey into the rest of the Arboretum, or move seamlessly from the campus into the City,” says Griswold. “We needed to improve our connection in this location, now, thanks to so many partners, we finally have a welcoming, beautiful gateway. Let’s celebrate it!”
About the UC Davis GATEways Initiative
The UC Davis GATEways Initiative (Gardens, Arts, Technology and the Environment) is a master planning framework for the Arboretum & Public Garden that envisions the campus landscape as a portal into the campus, to welcome visitors and showcase the creative work and spirit of inquiry at UC Davis.
With the GATEways Initiative, the Arboretum & Public Garden will continue its work as a national leader in the public garden field, but it will also adopt a new mission: to inform visitors about the important ideas and complex issues UC Davis scientists and scholars are tackling. We are working with campus and community partners to develop multi-layered learning experiences that will use teaching landscapes, public arts, exhibits, digital technologies, and interactions with students to engage and inspire visitors.