Economic opportunity

By From page A4 | June 30, 2014

The University of California at Davis is planning to open a satellite campus. The general outlines are for a campus focusing on food, health and the environment.

Sacramento thinks it will get the campus for the rail yard, but that is a long way off from development.

El Dorado County should organize a delegation of business leaders, farmers and government officials to meet with UCD Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

Why El Dorado County and where? The “where” is the easiest answer and a major selling point for El Dorado County. Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest private forest land owner in the state, bought the forest and lumber mill site of the Wetsel-Oviatt Lumber Co. The lumber mill off Latrobe Road was torn down and the site is now 150 acres of bare land that is surplus to SPI’s needs.

It is bare land that had an industrial use, accessed by a two-lane paved road from Latrobe Road not far from the El Dorado Hills Business Park. It has water service. And best of all it has railroad track frontage.

The railroad, which used to serve the lumber company, could become an important amenity for a satellite campus. Folsom’s Sacramento Valley Railroad could improve the track and provide service between such a satellite campus and the light rail service in Folsom. And El Dorado County could seek transportation funding to add a hiking and bicycling trail along the railroad right of way from the Wetsel-Oviatt site to connect with Folsom’s extensive trail system and the American River Parkway.

This location for a food and health campus would fit right in with the extensive ranch marketing and Apple Hill features in El Dorado County. This county has a lot of fruit, beef cattle and sheep. The location would also benefit neighboring Amador County.

Campus staff and professors will be looking for amenities. You can’t beat the quality of homes nearby in Blackstone, Serrano and other parts of El Dorado Hills. And for those seeking a country experience, that is close by as well. The schools are the best and Town Center is an exciting mix of shopping opportunities.

With 150 acres there is a lot that can be done for a satellite campus and room to expand.

The group will need to also meet with Red Emerson, the founder and leader of SPI. With the right approach, he could become a backer of this and someone who could help advance this proposal.

UCD has chosen the person who will direct development of the new campus. Currently the dean of the Graduate School of Management, Steve Currall, will lead this group exploring a “third campus.” He will lead the exploration for a campus that will focus on food, agriculture and nutrition.

Katehi said the campus will have a 20-year build-out period. Only the Wetsel-Oviatt site has the space for a 20-year build-out.

Currall will lead deliberations with the research faculty and lead fundraising efforts.

El Dorado County needs to act now to have the Latrobe site considered part of the Sacramento area and an ideal location for a satellite campus.


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