Sunday, August 27, 2006

Demolition of ranch house marks new beginning

From Vacaville Reporter
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Rush Ranch is getting a new nature center on its property, but not before some internal housekeeping is completed.

An excavator, manned by Ken Borders, an equipment operator with the Fish and Game Department, started in on Friday to tear down an old building that had once served as the ranch caretaker's house to make room for the future construction. Volunteers showed up on Friday and Saturday to help sort through the debris.

"It's always sad to get rid of things you're familiar with," Kirsti Muskat, a volunteer with Solano Land Trust, said Saturday morning after watching the frame of the house shake every time a part of the roof was pulled off. "But we're generally excited to see it go to make way for a better place. This is just one step in the process of building the nature center."

The State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) approved a $500,000 grant to the Solano Land Trust for construction of a nature center at Rush Ranch. This grant adds to the $500,000 awarded last year from the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, according to the ranch's Web site.

The Patwins, the Native Americans who lived in the Solano County area and areas to the north, resided on what is now Rush Ranch for hundreds of years, the Web site said.

The Suisun Marsh is billed as the largest estuarine marsh in the entire United States. Now protected by state law, the whole of the marsh is a local environmental treasure that is a home to a variety of wildlife and birds.

The new facility will include a nature center and adjoining caretaker residence, as well as lab, living quarters, public toilets and office space for visiting scientists, said Ken Poerner, a member of Solano Land Trust.

The sorted debris will be given to a landfill to reuse. According to Poerner, who also organized the demolition project, 70 to 80 percent of the lumber gathered will be chopped up and reused, while about 10 to 15 percent of the metal will also be reused in some capacity.

Poerner put aside some floor beams that he plans to use to help restore the ranch's corral. He pointed out that the old house only sits on dirt and that a concrete foundation was never poured.
Muskat's children were also sorting through debris, finding chunks of insulation, window frames, pipes and water faucets. The Muskats regularly volunteer at the ranch, but this was the first time they've been a part of a demolition project.

"Sometimes (volunteering) is a lot of fun," said Tallin Muskat, 15, wearing work gloves while tearing through drywall. "We've been able to drive a bulldozer before."

More volunteers showed up to help Saturday morning.

One volunteer, Jessica Schneider, who works with the National Estuarine Research reserve, said she is very excited about the new facility. She watched, mesmerized, as the building was being torn down. She said that she's looking forward to having a convenient lab on the property in which to do research.

"We have a strong investment in this project," said Schneider, who also works with the weather station that sits close to the demolished building. "We have a great partner -ship with Solano Land Trust, plus it's a lot of fun."

Members of Boy Scout Troop 481 also showed up Friday to volunteer their time.
"A lot of people care about Rush Ranch and what it has to offer," Poerner said. "This is for the future."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

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