Building Nature at Sedgwick Reserve

The iconic Sedgwick Reserve is a world-class sustainable research, conservation and education facility located in the Santa Ynez Valley in Northern Santa Barbara County. One of seven reserves of its kind managed by the University of California Natural Reserve System, the reserve is home to thousands of species of plants and animals including bears, mountain lion and rare wildflowers. The reserve also claims the unique title as the “largest rattlesnake research facility in the world”. So remember to wear your ankle covers when you walk the site!

Judy Stapleman, landowner, ecologist and philanthropist came up with the idea for the reserve after noticing that many tracts of land being claimed back from grazing land for “conservation” where often harmful than beneficial to the local environment. When a parcel has been utilized for grazing or otherwise developed (as must of the reserve has) the land is made susceptible to infestation by invasive plant species. Many invasive plants are prolific and often make it very difficult for natives to compete. For this reason conserved land must be managed in a smart, sustainable way to allow native plants and wildlife to thrive again. The reserve is managed in a way that focuses on this delicate balance. With careful management and full time staff care, the large land parcel is now nearly restored to its natural state and completely dedicated to research in biology, ecology and sustainable land management.

Sedgwick Reserve covers more than 6000 acres (around 9 square miles), making it the largest and most diverse reserve of its kind in the country. A swath of land this large with such diverse use r staff is critical. The house is a “24/7 research station” with infrastructure to support sustainable use. There is an old farm house that houses students and researchers as well as a tent campground and old barn. The original structures have been there since the late 1800’s. The reserve has spent the last few years building new key infrastructure to house staff and continue is mission of allowing researchers to come to the site and live side by side with the plants and wildlife they research.

Allen Construction is proud to build for the reserve. Allen’s dedication to sustainable design, durability of building construction and reputation for quality of work made Allen an easy choice for partnering with the preserve to build their growing infrastructure needs. In 2015 Allen completed the sustainably built Tipton Meeting house on the reserve field station grounds. This certified LEED Platinum project is one of the most sustainable buildings in the country. The meeting house is frequented by researchers and student groups for classes and lectures on site at the reserve. The Tipton House, farm house and reserve field station are nearly self sustaining for their energy needs. There is a solar photo-voltaic system installed that easily support most electricity needs at the site on sunny days. However, the field station is home to some higher powered climate monitoring equipment that requires some additional power to be supplied from the conventional grid. “If not for the weather station the reserve would be sending power back to the grid each month” Said McCurdy.

Recently, the Sedgwick board of directors called on Allen Construction to break ground on a new project. Allen will now deliver and install a new module home to accommodate for additional staff members. “The number of researchers on site is growing” said Kate McCurdy, wildlife biologist and full time manager at the preserve. Kate lives full time on site in a sustainable, modular pre-fab home installed six years ago. The residence was placed in order to provide Kate with a private living space away from the throngs of students and researchers using the site year-round. The new modular home will be connected to the solar system once installed. Adding more permanent staff to reside on site will assure proper and continuous management as well as give Kate opportunity take a day off here and there! The new house is fully assembled and ready to deliver as soon as the ground on the site is dry enough for installation. Preliminary site work began mid April and completion is set for June 2017.