Cascade Creek – FACTS

There are expansive stands of younger, second-growth coast redwoods and more than 100 acres of old-growth redwoods on the Cascade Creek property. Photo by Victoria Reeder, Save the Redwoods League

Key Facts

  1. Cascade Creek provides critical linkage between Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Año Nuevo State Park, supporting the League’s goal of safeguarding contiguous redwood habitat from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
    • Cascade Creek may be transferred to California State Parks in the future for addition to Big Basin Redwoods State Park or Año Nuevo State Park, allowing for watershed-scale protection and management strategies.
  1. Cascade Creek has more than 100 acres of old-growth redwoods and numerous stands of large second-growth redwoods. 
    • Researchers studied four of the old-growth trees and dated them between 420 and 528 years old. They also identified a 100-year-old second-growth tree that has grown remarkably fast—it is now larger than and nearly as tall as the oldest tree studied.
    • Pygmy redwoods have been found along the north-south ridgeline down the center of the property where the soil is much more sandy and dry.
  1. The creek and property are named after the beautiful 50-foot Cascade Falls just south of the property.
  1. About the flora and fauna:
    • Endangered marbled murrelets may use the ancient trees on the property for nesting, and the big, gnarly limbs that they prefer appear to be intact after the fire.
    • The property provides habitat that can support a wide array of wildlife, from mountain lions to rough-skinned newts.
    • Cascade Creek is home to a rich diversity of vascular plants—scientists have observed 38 species at their study site.
    • Cascade Creek’s understory supports western swordferns, plants that League scientists have used as indicators of how drought is affecting the forests.
    • The understory also features redwood sorrel and trillium.
    • Manzanita, pine, and madrone trees grow on siltstone locally called “chalks.” The road that runs through the property is called Chalks Road.
  1. While the Holmes family milled second-growth and third-growth trees at their sawmills in Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties, they are enthusiastic advocates for protecting old-growth redwoods. In 2012, the family worked with the League to protect old-growth redwoods on their properties in the nearby Peters Creek and Boulder Creek drainages.
  1. The purchase price—$9 million—is well below the market price for the land, underscoring the commitment of the Holmes family to redwood conservation.
    • Our post-fire assessments indicate that the land and timber values have held, so the purchase price of $9 million remains the same. 
  1. While this forest is resilient and will recover over time, there were effects of significant burning throughout the property. 
    • Many of the redwoods were at least top-killed.
    • The forest is already showing signs of recovery, with understory plants sprouting back and stems sprouting from the trunks and branches of the redwoods.
    • With the loss of ancient Douglas-fir trees, which do not sprout, the forest will look different for many years, and Douglas-fir trees won’t be a component of the forest until new ones establish and grow.

FAQ

Why is the Cascade Creek property so important to the League’s mission?
Cascade Creek supports both ancient redwoods and stands of large second-growth redwoods. It connects Big Basin Redwoods State Park with Año Nuevo State Park along the coast, increasing the ecological resilience of the entire region.
What are the terms and cost of the agreement?
The League purchased the property for $9 million, a figure considerably less than the market value. Our goal is to transfer it to a permanent steward, such as California State Parks. The landowners, Holmes family, have agreed to make a significant donation of land value to enable the League to purchase this property for approximately $1 million below fair market value.
The CZU Lightning Complex Fires burned much of the Cascade Creek property. Why is the League still buying it? Did the fire affect the value?
The Cascade Creek property remains a keystone redwood landscape linking the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and so the League still believes this acquisition is a valuable long-term investment, especially knowing that the forest will recover in time. Our assessments indicate that the land and timber values have held, so the purchase price of $9 million (plus $600,000 for stewardship) remains the same. 
Are the redwoods OK following the CZU Complex Fires? Will they grow back?
While this forest is resilient and will recover over time, there were effects of significant burning throughout the property. Many of the redwoods were at least top-killed. Many of them will resprout from the trunks and limbs, and most will sprout at least from the base. However, with the loss of ancient Douglas-fir trees, which do not sprout, the forest will look different, and Douglas-fir trees won’t be a component of the forest until new ones establish and grow. 
Who are the owners of Cascade Creek, and what is their history?
The Holmes family has owned the property since 1978 and logged the lower part of the property in the 1980s. The family owned sawmills in Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties, milling second-growth and third-growth trees, while supporting the protection of old-growth redwoods. They have worked with the League on prior conservation agreements, most notably for properties in the Boulder Creek and Peters Creek watersheds.

What are the League’s plans for the property?
The League is prepared to hold the property for the foreseeable future until a permanent steward is secured. In the meantime, we now expect considerably more restoration and stewardship on the property than we had planned. We will take the least-intensive post-fire stewardship approach, focusing on natural recovery wherever possible. This means managing invasive species, monitoring natural regeneration of the forest, and planting on an enrichment basis where natural regeneration is not adequate. 

How does Cascade Creek fit into the League’s Forever Forest Campaign?
Cascade Creek is one of the flagship projects of the Forever Forest Campaign. Securing this keystone landscape along the California Coast protects forests young and old, and safeguards a critical part of the coast redwoods’ natural range.

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