Davis Wetlands – Beatiful Place, but Bizarrely Closed to Visitors most of the Winter

If you live near Davis you should check out the Davis Wetlands – a pseudopreserve over by the landfill. Its got amazing birds and some nice trails to walk around on. The only problem is, in the Winter, when it is wettest and the birding is best, the Wetlands is closed almost all the time. It is only open to the public for a few hours on Mondays. In addition, there are signs all over on most of the trails saying they are closed to vistors. What gives?

I found this to be completely lame and so I wrote to the Davis government about it

To whom it may concern

I am writing to ask some questions regarding usage policies for the Davis Wetlands. I think Davis Wetlands is one of the gems of this city. I have taken my now 20 month old daughter there many times to walk around and see the birds and animals and get a nice park-like experience. I am writing because I am concerned about the severe usage restrictions at the Davis Wetlands.

First, in the Winter months, the park is only open on Mondays which means those of us who work regular hours cannot use the park. I am wondering if there is some reason why the park is not open all days of the week in Winter and also how Monday was chosen as the day to be open. I would like to recommend that in Winter the park be open on at least one weekend day.

Second, I am wondering why such a large fraction of the park has signs that say “Park Employee’s Only” or something like that. These are all over the park on many of the levees and they mean that very little of the park can be seen by non employees. I am wondering why so much is off limits and whether there are any plans to expand public access. If not, I would recommend you do so.

The response I got was quick, although not what I expected …

Dear Mr. Eisen,
Thank you for contacting the Davis Public Works Department.
Your message has been forwarded to Mr. John McNerney, Wildlife
Resource Specialist, in-charge of the Davis Wetlands. If you wish to
contact Mr. McNerney, his direct line is (530) 757-5680.

If you have any questions, please call (530) 757-5686 or e-mail us
at: pwweb@cityofdavis.org

Maria Briilantes
Office Assistant

And then McNerny replied the next day

Dear Mr. Eisen,

Thanks you for inquiring about the access times for the Davis
Wastewater Treatment Wetlands. As you are aware, the current access
periods are:
Feb 15 – August 31 (summer)– 7 days per week 7am to 1pm.
Sept 1 – Feb 14 (winter) — Mondays only from 7am to 1pm.

In addition to the normal access times, a docent led tour is offered
the first Saturday of the month from 9 to 11am (during summer hours) and
from 3 to 5pm (winter).

The current access times were negotiated during the drafting of the
original purchase agreement with the neighboring landowners (Conaway
Ranch Conservancy). These periods and times were set to reduce Wetlands
visitor conflicts with adjacent land use activities (primarily hunting)
on the Conaway Ranch. The Sept 1 – Feb 15 period coincides with the
hunting season. There are obvious hazards associated with public access
at the Wetlands while firearms are being used in the adjacent fields.
Conaway Ranch agreed that no hunting would take place on Mondays or the
first Saturday of the month from 3-5pm.

We are currently planning on re-visiting our access agreement with
Conaway Ranch. We will be discussing the Monday only restriction and
hope to add at least one additional weekly access day during the winter,
ideally on a weekend.

To address your second question, it is important to note that many of
the roads within the Wetlands are narrow and winding. The auto tour
route has been improved for heavy traffic use including use by larger
vehicles such as buses. The “authorized personal only” signs are there
to help keep visitors vehicles off of these smaller roads. With that
said, we do encourage visitors to park in the designated parking areas
and walk around. Foot traffic is permitted on the “restricted” access
roads. We will be updating the signs to be clear about this issue.

A final note on the limited access to the southern portion of the
Wetlands. Being as the Wetlands serve hundreds of thousands of migrating
waterfowl and shorebirds, it is important to offer some quite and
undisturbed areas for these species to forage and rest. Promoting
increased human disturbance in these areas would be a less than ideal
management strategy.

Thanks for your interest in the Wetlands and its inhabitants. Please
feel free to contact me if you have more questions or suggestions.



John T. McNerney
Wildlife Resource Specialist
City of Davis, Public Works
23 Russell Blvd.
Davis, CA 95616
530-757-5680 Fax- 758-0354

I guess this is understandable from the Conaway and the Davis point of view but it would seem to me given the size of Conaway Ranch that the hunters could stay away from the portions that border the Davis Wetlands without too much trouble. But maybe that is where the best hunting is — I do not know. Nevertheless, I am hoping that Davis changes its mind and tries to open up more access in the Winter. As of last week it seems no more access has been granted:

I am writing to find out if anything has been changed in terms of the winter access to the Wetlands.

I know the Winter is almost over, but I am still interested in expanding access during these months.


Hi Jonathan,

I have nothing new to report. We are still waiting on Conaway to commit
to a meeting time.

I’ll be sure to update you if/when things change.

Thanks for your continued interest,


John T. McNerney
Wildlife Resource Specialist
City of Davis, Public Works
23 Russell Blvd.
Davis, CA 95616
530-757-5680 Fax- 758-0354

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

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