The arboretum waterway may not have much in common with the Mississippi River, but don’t tell that to two staff members who got to play Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer earlier this month, poling their way down the UC Davis channel.
They rode atop an old wooden boat dock after it had been detached from the waterway’s southern bank west of Putah Creek Lodge. Using long poles, “Huck” and “Tom” pushed the dock to the waterway’s west end, where a crew had room to maneuver the heavy equipment that lifted the dock from the water.
The dock, believed to have been in place since a 1960s improvement project that also included the construction of Wyatt Deck and a boat storage shed, had become rickety and dangerous, said Cliff Contreras, director of Transportation and Parking Services. He also oversees Civil and Industrial Services, which handled the dock removal.
“The dock in its previous condition was an unsafe apparatus sitting on the edge of the creek,” he said. “We didn’t want to tempt anyone to jump on the dock and get injured.”
In planning the dock’s removal, staff was not sure how to reach the dock, because vegetation kept heavy equipment from driving close enough to the water. Contreras said Matt Hayes, operations engineer with Civil and Industrial Services, came up with the idea to float it to a more open area.
“I said, ‘Really? We don’t even know if that thing will float,’” Contreras said.
So, he emptied his pockets — in case he fell in — and climbed aboard. Then, to his pleasant surprise, everything went according to plan.
“It was probably one of the most fun things I’ve done in my 28-year career here at the university,” Contreras said.
Earlier in its history, the campus used the dock to launch sailboats and canoes. See slideshow. Skip Mezger, campus landscape architect, recalled canoes paddling around the arboretum when he attended UC Davis in the early 1970s.
Lately, the dock was really only being used by passers-by who wanted a place to pose for a photo, Mezger said.
“There’s been no discussion for replacing it as far as I know,” he said.
The arboretum says on its website that officials are “currently working on reimagining the entire arboretum waterway and hope to include places, like this one, where visitors can get closer to nature.”