I’ve always been fascinated by California’s redwoods. A tree that is 1,000 years old, 2,000 years old, means that it existed back in medieval, in ancient times. It is likely that a couple hundred acres of land containing some of the last remaining old-growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains in northern California will be preserved. The San Francisco-based Save the Redwoods League hopes to purchase what experts say is the third-largest old-growth redwoods grove in the area from a family who has owned the land for 38 years.
Money, unfortunately, is standing in the way of saving these trees. The Save the Redwoods League needs to make a $2 million down payment by the end of this year to seal the deal. The rest of the purchasing price of $8 million must then be paid by December of 2013.
The Peninsula Open Space Trust recently donated $1.125 million to the cause. This trust and the redwoods league are both part of the Living Landscape Initiative, which is working to preserve 20,000 acres of redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
If the deal goes through, this land with its majestic trees near Portola Redwoods State Park will be permanently protected and a conservation easement be established on some of the land. Conservationists also hope to increase public access by building more trails. Ultimately, the hope is that the California State Parks system can purchase the land, when the state’s finances are better.
Once groves of redwoods were widespread in California but today, as SFGate underscores, “it is a minor miracle that any redwoods still exist in what was once an enormous wilderness of giant trees, grizzly bears and shaded creeks teeming with coho salmon and steelhead trout.” The California Gold Rush brought a huge influx of homesteaders and, with them, the beginning of logging. Nonetheless, many old-growth trees survived because the real demand was for shingles, which require a particular grain of wood.
Ownership of the groves of redwoods has shifted hands a number of times. Some of the land was purchased in 1924 by the Islam Shrine of the Masonic Lodge; the Shriners built cabins and camp facilities and prohibited logging. The family of the current owner, Larry Holmes, bought the site in 1977.
Trails along Peters Creek lead into Portola Redwoods State Park, which is famous for its 200-foot and higher old-growth trees. SFGate points out that, currently, “the public can reach the redwoods inside the park only via a steep and circuitous 11-mile round trip route.” Adding the additional groves would make access far easier and enable more people to enjoy the beauty of the park and its trees.
Here in New Jersey, so many trees — certainly not as old or tall as the redwoods — were felled due to Hurricane Sandy. The sight of one huge trunk after another torn from its roots and lying flat on the ground has brought home how significant a part of the landscape trees are. Suburban streets look sadly barren and damaged without them.
Experts express confidence that the Peters Creek and Boulder Creek lands will eventually become part of the California state parks system and we have to hope they are right. I don’t care to think what the Santa Cruz Mountains would looks like without those groves of giant trees.
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Photo by Nathan Jongewaard