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.
After League scientists assess the property, Cascade Creek may be transferred to California State Parks for addition to Big Basin Redwoods State Park or Año Nuevo State Park, allowing for watershed-scale protection and management strategies.
Cascade Creek has more than 100 acres of old-growth redwoods and numerous stands of large second-growth redwoods.
Researchers recently 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.
The creek and property are named after the beautiful 50-foot Cascade Falls just south of the property.
About the flora and fauna:
Endangered marbled murrelets may use the ancient trees on the property for nesting.
The property provides habitat that can support a wide array of wildlife, from mountain lions to rough-skinned newts.
Cascade Creek has a rich diversity of vascular plants—scientists have observed 38 species at their study site.
Cascade Creek’s understory supports lush western swordferns, plants that League scientists have used as indicators of how drought is affecting the forests.
The understory also features beds of 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.
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.
The purchase price—$9 million—is well below the market price for the land, underscoring the commitment of the Holmes family to redwood conservation.
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 will purchase the property for $9 million, a figure considerably less than the market value. After League scientists and managers evaluate the property’s resources and explore management options, 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.
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 priorities for Cascade Creek?
The foremost priorities are protecting the property’s ancient redwoods and second-growth forest so that younger trees can develop into an old-growth forest over time. Expanding recreational opportunities in the Santa Cruz Mountains also is a goal.
What are the techniques for establishing old-growth characteristics in second-growth redwoods stands?
In some cases, as with the Cascade Creek forest, little needs to be done. If stands are not overcrowded, and they are growing on stable soils with adequate nutrients and water, they will develop the qualities of older forests at a healthy pace. In other circumstances, judicious thinning and/or prescribed fire may be warranted.
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.