Ulistac Natural Area Under Threat

By Alice Kaufman

Ulistac Natural Area represents the last 40 acres of undeveloped natural land in the City of Santa Clara. It is the result of thousands of hours of volunteer work by schoolchildren, Boy Scouts, nature lovers, teachers, birders, and others who have devoted time to planting, weeding, and helping to create the diverse habitats of Ulistac. Wetlands, native grassland, sycamore and oak woodlands, oak savannah habitat, coastal scrub habitat, a bird and butterfly garden, as well as the adjoining Guadalupe River corridor, provide a range of habitats for wildlife and a wonderful natural area for schools to teach children about nature and for residents to enjoy. It is also a culturally and historically significant site for the Muwekma Ohlone, a local Native American tribe.

Unfortunately, Ulistac is under threat due to a proposal by the Santa Clara City Council to relocate the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park, which is currently located next to the new 49ers stadium on a site that will be turned into a parking lot. The City Council is considering several possible locations for the soccer park, including Ulistac.

A soccer field, with its monoculture of non-native grass and lack of tree- or shrub-size vegetation for nesting, foraging, or hiding from predators, cannot provide the same quality of habitat for wildlife as the range of restored habitat areas Ulistac currently supports. The soccer field would be placed in the middle of Ulistac’s natural area, leaving the wetlands isolated at one end and the bird and butterfly garden at the other end. This fragmenting of habitat is as harmful as outright destruction. Animals in the wild do not confine themselves to an acre here or there, and limiting the range in which wildlife may roam acts to severely limit the number and kinds of species that can utilize the area.

In addition, one of the factors that makes Ulistac so valuable to wildlife is the fact that it adjoins the Guadalupe River. Rivers and riparian corridors, especially those in a natural state such as the Guadalupe River, are rare and valuable resources for plants and animals. In the semi-arid Bay Area, the great majority of wildlife uses riparian corridor areas at some point, whether for shelter, foraging, or migration, since riparian corridors host a diversity and density of vegetation often found only near water sources. Open space adjacent to riparian corridors has great value for wildlife since it is accessible from the riparian corridor and does not require travel through developed areas. We hope that the Santa Clara City Council will decide to keep Ulistac as the wonderful, natural, undeveloped area it is, and find another location for the youth soccer park.

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