Old Survivor Documentary: A Celebration of Oakland’s Redwoods

I’ve been enjoying East Bay parks for decades, but I first started learning about the history of Oakland’s redwood forest in 2015 when I was producing our first documentary, Trailhead. In that film, we featured Oakland’s connection to more than 500 miles of trails that span the entire East Bay–a broader story–but all throughout production, Oakland’s redwood forest kept coming up in the narrative. From visits to the Oakland History Room to in-person interviews with local stewards and historians, I learned there was a heart wrenching, yet rich story to tell.

Fast forward three years, and thanks to the success of Trailhead, we were finally able to dive into that story. Fueled by California’s Gold Rush in the 1850’s, our ancient redwood forest was drastically cut to help build San Francisco. But one old tree was left behind, and with the amazing conservation efforts in the early 1900’s, a second-growth forest around the “Old Survivor” tree was protected as parkland for future generations.

We are proud to feature Save the Redwoods League, the East Bay Regional Park District, and the City of Oakland in this film. We also appreciate their partnership and support, and that from many others in the community who’ve helped us tell this story.

While the forest we have today is still young, it’s growing very fast. The resilience of our redwoods is as amazing as the forest is beautiful. We hope our new film captures that, and increases the importance level for the essential stewardship commitment that our redwood parklands need today and into the future.

With 750 people in attendance, the film premiered on October 9, 2018 at the Chabot Space & Science Center during the League’s Centennial Celebration Week, a weeklong series of events commemorating 100 years of protecting California’s redwood forests. League President and CEO, Sam Hodder, spoke at the premiere and stressed the importance of restoring the young, recovering forests that surround and sustain the remaining ancient trees, like Old Survivor.

Attend an upcoming screening, learn more about the Old Survivor film and view photos from the event. (external links)

Learn more about the redwood parks in the East Bay and plan your visit on ExploreRedwoods.org.

About the author

Stan Dodson, manager of La Farine Bakery in Oakland's Dimond District, and founder of the nonprofit organization Oakland Trails, has led projects to help promote, maintain, and enhance the trail system that connects Dimond Park to the Bay Area Ridge Trail since 2008. Learn more, get involved, and donate at OaklandTrails.org.

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2 Responses to “Old Survivor Documentary: A Celebration of Oakland’s Redwoods”

  1. Stephen Rodewald

    Can you send me information – perhaps a link – about the replanting of redwood seedlings in the early 1900’s, resulting in our being able to enjoy Oakland’s Redwood Park today? In a visit to the park a few years ago, I remember reading on a park sign that one woman spearheaded that replanting effort – but I can’t find anything online about her. So often these days we wring our hands about all the problems in our world. I want to be able to tell friends her story, as an example of optimism, and of what even one person can do to make our world a better place.
    Thank you.
    Stepen Rodewald

    • Stan Dodson

      Redwoods don’t need to be replanted after harvest, they simply grow back. The redwoods in the Oakland Hills we enjoy today are merely younger stems of an ancient redwood forest.


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