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June 10, 2014

Merced’s Amtrak station gets new drought-resistant shrubs

Merced’s Amtrak station is looking greener after about 20 volunteers took to digging holes for scores of new plants on Saturday.

Merced’s Amtrak station is looking greener after about 20 volunteers took to digging holes for scores of new plants on Saturday.

Councilman Michael Belluomini organized the effort to put 173 drought-resistant plants into the landscape surrounding the train station. “For some of the tourists – visitors to Merced – the Amtrak station is the first or the last thing that they see when they come to Merced,” he said. “So we want to leave or give a good impression.”

Miniature oleander, crepe myrtle, heavenly bamboo and India hawthorn now cover much of the station’s green spaces. Those flowering plants are drought-resistant and require relatively less water, he said.

California’s drought has many thinking about how much water their landscape consumes. For homes with average-size lawns, about half of their water use in a year goes to the grass. That is mainly because grass is photosynthesizing all year.

Amtrak paid for the more than $2,000 in plants and volunteers provided the labor.

Some of the volunteers, Bellouomini said, came from Yosemite Church’s Spanish-speaking service, the Mariposa-based Clampers and other organizations, including the El Capitan High Leo Club, which is the high school version of the local Lions Club.

Gary Eno, who coordinates the area Leo clubs for the Merced Breakfast Lions, said the eight volunteers from the El Capitan club showed up on short notice. The call went out only two days prior. The club also volunteered at one of the hydration stations for the Merco Half Marathon on Sunday.

“It’s quite the exceptional club,” he said. “They’re a very, very active group.”

The station’s shrubbery is maintained by the city of Merced, which contracts with a landscaping company. A couple of the city’s groundskeepers oversaw the work.

Vernae Graham, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said the landscaping needed restoration, as many of the plants had died over the years.

She praised the beautification effort. “The volunteers worked hard and nonstop even through the Valley heat,” she said.

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