EL CERRITO -- Work has begun work on a key project that will extend the city's effort to enhance the urban open space along the Ohlone Greenway that runs next to and beneath the BART tracks.
Construction on this latest upgrade to the greenway is taking place across Fairmount Avenue south of the El Cerrito Plaza BART station and behind the El Cerrito Plaza Shopping Center.
The main component of the project is a rain garden that will cleanse stormwater that flows from the hills. The rain garden will take in water from the storm drainage system on Fairmount and purify it by filtering it through soil before releasing it into storm drains that lead to the Bay, said landscape architect and project manager John Hykes of Placeworks in Berkeley.
The city had earlier installed smaller rain gardens to treat stormwater runoff along a stretch of San Pablo Avenue.
All the installations are part of an effort to meet stormwater standards that will require cities to reduce the amount of trash and other pollutants released into San Francisco Bay to zero by 2022. The rain garden concept has spread to other cities along San Pablo Avenue that will have similar installations, including San Pablo, Richmond, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland.
Workers are restoring a short segment of Cerrito Creek, which flows through the greenway, to its natural state by opening up the banks of the waterway and installing riparian planting, Hykes said.
"The creek emerges from a culvert on the east side of the site and then goes back into a culvert," with a metal rack that captures debris, he said.
The city is also improving the bicycle and pedestrian trails through the site, installing a wall for murals and other art and adding native and drought-tolerant plants, according to city environmental analyst Maria Sanders.
The project will include displays that describe the ecological significance of improvements to the site.
"We're doing improvements that have an environmental and community function, including a natural play area with redwood stumps and boulders," Sanders said.
Construction is expected to be completed in September, Sanders said.
The $652,210 project is being paid for from a state grant the city received in 2010 to improve about 2.5 acres of the Ohlone Greenway from Fairmont south to Brighton Avenue in Albany.
The project follows earthquake safety upgrade work for the BART tracks completed earlier this year and the restoration of a stretch of Baxter Creek at the northern end of the Ohlone Greenway in 2005.