The League is proud to be a part of the rich heritage of California and California State Parks.
Save the Redwoods League has maintained a close partnership with California State Parks (CSP) since the League helped establish the state park system in 1927. Since then, we have transferred land to nearly 40 state parks and helped restore areas in many of them. Our donors have contributed more than $135 million for this work. The League is proud to be a part of the rich heritage of California and California State Parks.
The Beginning of the State Parks Movement
California State Parks is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2014! The origin of California State Parks dates back to 1864, when President Abraham Lincoln granted Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California. Never before had land been set aside purely for the preservation and public enjoyment of its natural values.
Since then, California State Parks has grown to be the largest state park system in the United States, with 280 park units and almost 70 million visitors annually.
Save the Redwoods League is known for helping to start California's state park system, but California State Parks dates back to 1864 and the League didn't exist until 1918. Why is that?
The first state park was established in 1864—but the state parks system itself didn't exist until 1927.
President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act on June 30, 1864, setting aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove as California's first state park. In 1890, surrounding forestland was added and that area became Yosemite National Park. In 1902, the newly-formed California Redwood Park Commission agreed to acquire 2,500 acres in Big Basin. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is now the oldest California State Park.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, public support for the conservation of California's natural and scenic heritage was growing. Photographs and accounts of the amazing giant redwoods spread awareness and admiration of the great forests.
See the timeline of important milestones in the history of California State Parks and the League.
Source: State Parks of California: From 1864 to the Present by Joseph H. Engbeck, Jr.
Establishing the State Parks System
Our work to help establish state parks stems from 1917, when three prominent conservationists—John C. Merriam, Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn—visited the northern coast redwood forest, witnessing widespread logging of ancient giants.These three accomplished naturalists had been persuaded to investigate the state of the redwood forests in Northern California by the head of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather.
They were appalled to find that not one of these astounding redwoods, which grow only along the Northern California-Oregon coast, was protected for public enjoyment. In the spring of 1918, with funds raised by Mather, they organized Save the Redwoods League to ensure that the remaining ancient forests flourish forever.
By 1925, there were five state parks in California—Yosemite, California State Redwood Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Mt. Diablo and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. These were islands of natural beauty that citizens, organizations and lawmakers had fought to protect.
However, these parks were managed by independent boards and commissions with no fundamental policy to govern their administration or creation. Some of these parks were undeveloped and even inaccessible for public enjoyment, as was the case with Mt. Diablo. To address these issues, J.D. Grant, chairman of the League's board, called a meeting to discuss the need for legislation to create a centralized state park system. He introduced Duncan McDuffie, chairman of the League's committee on state parks, to speak about this need.
McDuffie pointed out that California was growing in population more rapidly than any other state, and its corresponding urban and industrial development made it necessary to create a comprehensive plan for the conservation of scenic and recreational areas for future generations—otherwise these natural wonders would be lost forever. To address this issue and manage the existing underfunded and underdeveloped state parks, California needed a centralized park system with the power and funding to create, develop and manage state parks.
The California State Parks committee, a campaign organization, was formed and it drafted two senate bills: one provided for the creation of a central state park commission, and the other set up a statewide survey of potential state park sites. Newton B. Drury, the League's secretary and secretary to the California State Park Committee, was given the responsibility of gathering public support for these bills. Though widely supported by a coalition of national organizations and individuals, the bills encountered significant opposition from the lumber industry and its sympathizers in office. On June 5, 1925, the bills died by pocket veto when Governor Friend William Richardson, renowned for his extreme conservativeness, simply refused to sign them.
Going forward, the state park movement courted the support of its opposition to ensure universal support for the park system legislation. In 1926, McDuffie's close friend and business partner, Clement Calhoun Young, was elected governor. The state parks movement suddenly had a friend in the governor's chair. The rejected bills of 1925 were revised, and this time, gained unanimous approval in both houses. They were signed by Governor C.C. Young on May 25, 1927, and the California State Parks (external link) system was born. Today, California State Parks has grown to include more than 270 parks.
California's state parks preserve our most treasured landscapes for the enjoyment of all. Support California State Parks by donating to the League's parks program today.
For more information on the 150th Anniversary of State Parks, visit http://www.150.parks.ca.gov/.
Source: Engbeck, Joseph H. State Parks of California from 1864 to the present. Portland, Oregon: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co., 1980.
California State Parks (CSP), which buys or accepts donated land from the League, has struggled with declining funding over the past two decades despite increased demand for its services. Our state parks—many of which are redwood parks that our members helped create—are on the brink of closure. To protect these redwoods during CSP's budget crisis, the League, with gifts from our members, leads and supports various projects to improve the park experience and secure resources for park stewards.
Park Enhancement Projects:
The better a redwood park visitor's experience, the more likely they will support redwoods. One such project is a $340,000 enhancement completed in November 2010 that includes the addition of signage, improved parking facilities, new accessible restrooms and picnic tables under the giant redwoods at Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. The work resulted from an extensive environmental design and review process to make the reserve more accessible while reducing impacts to the trees, creek and the forest landscape.
Proud Partner Program:
California State Parks seeks partners to generate critical financial support that improves park visitors' experiences. The League is contributing $264,000 over the next three years to sponsor 33 park brochures that will teach visitors about these parks amid the redwoods. These brochures will mention the League and our Web address to garner additional redwoods supporters.
Parks Excellence Project:
In another initiative to improve the parks experience for visitors, the League, with encouragement from CSP, is partnering with California State Parks Foundation to create a vision for state parks of the future. You can read the 2011 joint report, Vision for Excellence for California's State Parks. In developing the project, we sought the input of parks professionals, parks partners and the public. Almost 8,000 individuals participated in the online survey.
All these new efforts are part of the League's tradition of trailblazing—of continuing as a leader in conservation with your crucial support.
The League has a long history of partnering with the US National Park Service (NPS).
In 1920, NPS and Save the Redwoods League conducted a survey of redwood forest areas that could be acquired for state or national park purposes. But work toward a redwood national park was stalled until 1961, when the League, Sierra Club and the National Geographic Society revived the idea.
Finally, in 1968, Congress established Redwood National Park in three state parks (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park). The League has continued to purchase and transfer land to these parks ever since.
In 2001, the League purchased Dillonwood giant sequoia grove and transferred it to Sequoia National Park.
We've also help expand the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and we've awarded grants to teach Muir Woods National Monument visitors about redwoods.
We continue to partner with a range of organizations, including local parks to ensure the long-term health of the redwoods.
The League helped expand Arcata Community Forest by raising funds to close a gap. One-third of the forest is now a dedicated reserve.
We established Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve overlooking Half Moon Bay and added land to Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. In 2000, funds from League members and other organizations helped purchase the Grove of Old Trees in Sonoma County.
Mia Monroe: League, Partner Introduce Wonder of Redwoods to Masses
Mia Monroe, Site Supervisor at Muir Woods National Monument, has long collaborated with the League to share redwoods with the forest's 1.5 million annual visitors. Photo by Paolo Vescia
Long before Mia Monroe began working as a ranger at Muir Woods National Monument 30 years ago, her family tree intertwined with the Save the Redwoods League. In 1945, the League hosted an international group of delegates tasked with creating the United Nations.
"The US government decided to hold a gathering at Muir Woods because the trees are like pillars of peace, and the language of nature is universal," said Monroe, adding proudly, "My family ran the press that printed the UN Charter."
Now, as Muir Woods' Site Supervisor, she continues the relationship. She teamed with the League to host special events in 1995 for the UN's 50th anniversary celebrations.
"During that time, we talked about the importance of making the park accessible to an urban audience that may never have had a connection to nature and had no clue what a redwood was. We agreed that one of our greatest priorities should be educating our young." The League began providing transportation so that today, thousands of children have been able to visit Muir Woods.
The League also contributed to the creation of "A Quest at Muir Woods," a poetic treasure hunt that allows young visitors to have fun while learning about the giant trees. "We're hoping that activities like the Quest will foster a lifetime connection to redwoods," Monroe said.
In 2008, as Muir Woods celebrated its 100th anniversary, the League hosted parties, underwrote publications for events, and also helped rededicate Cathedral Grove as a place of peace and quiet.
"That partnership has helped people pause and listen more deeply," said Monroe, noting that it was the first national park in the country to privilege quiet in this way. When the park is quieter, "we can still have a lot of people who have a great experience," Monroe said.
"I feel strongly the force of life here in the forest, and hopeful because these trees have been on Earth since time immemorial," Monroe said. "The trees profoundly influence my sense of who I am, my place in the world. With every breath I take, I feel like I'm taking their peaceful spirit into me. And that, in turn, inspires my work."
Donor Will Match Your Gift by Dec. 31!
Thanks to generous redwoods enthusiasts like you, Save the Redwoods League has raised $4 million—half the funds needed—to purchase and protect some of the most magnificent old-growth redwood forest still left in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can help raise $100K to double your impact for ancients in Santa Cruz Mountains. Learn more about this matching gift opportunity.