Public Access Plans, Restoration Move Forward
Another awe-inspiring redwood forest will open to the public in 2021 — San Vicente Redwoods west of Santa Cruz. Hugging its namesake — the gurgling San Vicente Creek — this 8,532-acre protected area is the largest privately held property between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean.
Save the Redwoods League holds a conservation easement on the property, which was purchased from commercial owners by Peninsula Open Space Trust and Sempervirens Fund in 2011. The easement permanently protects San Vicente Redwoods from subdivision and development, while allowing sustainable timber harvesting on portions of the property, as well as public access, restoration work, and scientific research. The League directs restoration projects, monitors timber harvests, and ensures protection of features such as old-growth redwoods. Save the Redwoods also works with partners to repair roads and provide public access.
Restoration activities have proceeded apace. Phase one of the Deadman Gulch project has been completed, which entailed thinning 110 acres of young, overcrowded forest — a consequence of past clear-cutting.
“The forest responds really positively to thinning,” said Anthony Castaños, the League’s Land Stewardship Manager. “This work gives bigger trees the room and resources to reach their potential as grand, old-growth forests, and it also helps reduce the risk of severe wildfires by eliminating excess fuels.”
San Vicente Redwoods is partially supported by Forever Forest: The Campaign for the Redwoods, a comprehensive campaign launched by Save the Redwoods League in January 2020 to garner support for the organization’s ambitious vision for the next century of redwoods conservation. The League’s goal is to raise $120 million by 2022 to fund the first years of this centennial vision, which includes protecting entire landscapes through large-scale, strategic land acquisitions; restoring young redwood forests to become the old-growth forests of the future; and connecting all people with the beauty and power of the redwoods through transformational park experiences.
Progress with the San Vicente restoration owes much to local community involvement. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band participated in the partners’ prescribed burn, and volunteers have assisted in invasive plant removal. In addition, scientists are studying San Vicente, including Chris Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been researching mountain lions
The Public Access Plan for the forest is a grand vision for hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking trails. Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has been leading community conversations to hear feedback on public use, safety, outdoor education, and involvement of youths.
Groundbreaking for phase one is expected in 2020, and the initial trail segment is expected to open in 2021.
Through these multiple uses, San Vicente Redwoods will meet ecological, social, and economic needs, advancing shared goals on a single property that serves people and wildlife of the region.
An Essential Part of the Region’s Forests
San Vicente Redwoods is the keystone property in the Santa Cruz Mountains, partly because of its 90 ancient redwoods, but mostly because of its sheer size. It covers 8,500 acres — a sprawling forest 6 miles long and 2.5 miles wide that connects 27,500 acres of contiguous protected woodland
San Vicente Redwoods is home to a variety of rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals, including the California red-legged frog, Shreve and Oracle oaks and Anderson’s manzanita. Endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout inhabit local creeks. Many of California’s signature mammals live here, including black-tailed deer, bobcats and coyotes. The property is so vast that wide-ranging mountain lions have established several nurseries here.
Further, the property provides drinking water for Davenport and Santa Cruz and clean flows for streams supporting imperiled fish. And with 70 miles of unpaved roads and trails, San Vicente offers outstanding recreation potential. Plans are underway to provide public trail access.
A Historic, Multiyear Project
The San Vicente Redwoods conservation effort has started through the Living Landscape Initiative (LLI) (external link), launched in 2011 by Save the Redwoods League, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (external link), Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) (external link), Sempervirens Fund (external link) and The Nature Conservancy (external link). We are working together to protect this vast property that none of us could protect alone.
Threatened with development and subdivision, San Vicente Redwoods received a reprieve in 2011 when our partners in the Living Landscape Initiative, POST and Sempervirens Fund, purchased the property for $30 million. However, neither POST nor Sempervirens Fund had the financial resources to hold the property long term. They planned to sell or trade San Vicente Redwoods to a permanent steward after securing a conservation easement that would protect the land forever.
Our Living Landscape Initiative partners will apply strict guidelines for sustainable wood harvesting on the property while permanently protecting the features we all value: old redwoods, homes for endangered wildlife, clean waterways and access to recreation. You can see a map of the land uses at San Vicente Redwoods. Habitat restoration in the Restoration Reserve parts of the property may be funded partially through our partners’ sustainable harvesting of young redwoods and other trees in the Working Forest part of the property. Restoration will speed the creation of old-growth forest characteristics, such as giant redwoods, which store huge amounts of carbon and help mitigate global warming.
If you have questions, or you would like to learn more about the San Vicente Redwoods (formerly CEMEX Redwoods) project, please contact Membership at (415) 820-5800 or membership@SaveTheRedwoods.org.
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A cave was recently discovered in San Vicente Redwoods (formerly CEMEX Redwoods). See the video below from KQED about this fascinating discovery.