HWY 108 Plantings: How Do They Look Today?
Have you noticed the Highway108 bypass plantings lately? There is visible growth – finally.
The irrigated areas around each planting are evident; the green patches stand out like beacons in the dry grass. We are reassured that one day the environs will resemble the original forested setting that was destroyed for the construction of the road. This planting program provides “mitigation” for the damage done to the natural environment by planting native trees to replace the ones cut down; it was not intended to create a park-like setting.
The Master Gardener Coordinator and I spent a few hours recently walking several sites along the highway. We were pleased to see the vigorous cottonwoods and willows which are most visible from the road. Other species were also doing well: live, black, and blue oaks, Ponderosa pines and incense cedars. Granted the weeds were flourishing too, due to the irrigation mentioned above. The landscape firm was on the job, cutting back the weeds, as we toured the site.
This is the final year of the three year contract during which time the plants that failed were to be replaced. It appears that dead plants have been replaced. It may be a challenge for these new plants because—after this growing season—water for the whole project will be reduced and eventually tapered off to a non-irrigated state. The maintenance contractor will be leaving the site at year´s end, but the irrigation system will be left in place for use in the immediate future. Those plants with a three year head start will most likely survive…and thrive.
The ratty burlap covers meant to provide shade are slowly rotting away; some have been removed. The wire cages will remain in place for someone else to remove as the plants push through them and no longer need the protection. Some plants have already pushed through the confines of the cages, which have been tossed aside.
These were basically the terms of the original agreement with CalTrans, and the three years will be completed by autumn of this year. The vast majority of the plantings have a good start; they will probably be able to continue on their own. We can also assume the weed growth will continue as well, and that will present a very different picture in future years. Think of our grassy golden slopes studded with vigorous green trees and shrubs.
It´s ironic to think that as these plantings mature they may be subject to the thinning that is occurring elsewhere in the Mother Lode in our effort to reduce fuel load and the danger of fire. With a mitigation program that planted up to five trees for every one cut down we should have a healthy forest of trees and shrubs even if thinning is required. We are the beneficiaries.
Master Gardeners Rebecca Miller-Cripps and Joan Bergsund toured several sites along the bypass to view the plantings up close and personal. This is their report.