Picture the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains redwood forest. It starts above Silicon Valley and spreads west and south to the Pacific Ocean in a swath of green running from Pescadero to Santa Cruz. Towering redwoods and Douglas firs shade its slopes and ravines, fading at high and dry points to oak woodland, mixed evergreen forest and golden grasslands. Deep in its most protected bottomlands, the ancient massive coast redwoods live on, witnesses to the centuries.
Now imagine that this Great Park is protected in perpetuity. An ecosystem devastated by logging over the last 150 years completes its recovery, supporting healthy populations of wild animals, plants and nearby people. It contains most of the surviving old-growth redwoods found south of San Francisco. Trails wind throughout this forest, connecting it from end to end and offering an unparalleled natural experience for hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, equestrians and casual day visitors.
The Sempervirens Fund dream of reassembling the Great Park is well on its way to reality. Already Sempervirens Fund has led the community in protecting numerous parks (including Big Basin and Castle Rock) and private lands through purchase or conservation easement, and today 99,000 acres of land in the Great Park are protected from development. When complete, the Great Park will encompass 138,000 acres of contiguous protected lands dotted by a handful of small private inholdings: a big, vibrant ecosystem unique in the world.
Only 39,000 more acres to go.
Read more about the Great Park.
A Collaborative Effort
Since its illustrious inception in 1900, Sempervirens Fund has raised and leveraged $50 million to protect more than 34,000 acres of redwood forest and watersheds in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sempervirens Fund works by purchasing land outright, purchasing conservation easements (in which case the property remains with a private owner who gives up the right to develop the land in exchange for a payment) and purchasing trail easements (in which, again, the property remains in private hands but public access is guaranteed in exchange for payment).
Like many land trusts across the country, Sempervirens Fund’s mission is fueled by individual contributions, foundations, nonprofits, and green-minded corporations. Government agencies help out, too, in the form of grants and partnerships. Reassembling the Great Park depends on ordinary people who are inspired to protect the places they love.
The very first act of what was then called the Sempervirens Club—persuading the state to purchase 3,800 acres of old-growth forest in modern-day Big Basin Redwoods State Park—led to the creation of the California state parks system.
It’s been more than a century since the organization distinguished itself as a pioneer in land conservation, and today it’s still coming up with new ways of protecting our natural heritage and making sure future generations get to enjoy it. One of Sempervirens Fund's primary projects right now is building new facilities—such as parking, restrooms, an information center and event facilities—at the 5,200-acre Castle Rock State Park, formed in 1968 when Sempervirens Fund rallied around a movement to save the stunning property.
The Great Park, too, is the scene of innovation. The project reached a watershed moment in December 2011 when Sempervirens Fund involved four partners—the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Save the Redwoods League, The Nature Conservancy and Peninsula Open Space Trust—to purchase the 8,500-acre Cemex property northeast of Davenport for $30 million. The resulting conservation plan may herald a new model for managing protected lands in an era of shrinking government budgets. It reserves more than 65 percent of the property for complete, permanent protection and restoration, where commercial timber harvesting will be prohibited. The remaining area—which has been a working forest for decades—will be available for sustainable timber harvesting at levels below those currently allowed under state and local forest practice regulations. All timber revenue will go toward extensive measures to improve the land’s ecological health. Plans for recreational access to the Cemex property, renamed the San Vicente Redwoods in summer 2014, are in the works.
Want to get involved? The Sempervirens Fund loves to meet new people. Contact them here:
419 South Antonio Rd.
Los Altos, CA 94022
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