photo by Canopy Dynamics
Forest and Features
Nestled in La Honda amongst the Santa Cruz mountains, Camp Jones Gulch is an invaluable stretch of redwood forest, which is not only home to notable tracts of trees like the ‘Valley of the Giants’ – one of the largest unprotected stands of old-growth redwoods in the region – its landscape is also crucial for the Pescadero watershed and rare and wildlife habitat. The property is rich with habitat diversity including 39 acres of rare old growth redwood forest, 668 acres of young growth redwood, Douglas fir, and hardwood forests, mature oak woodlands and other riparian woodlands. Its two creeks, Jones Gulch and McCormick creeks, are in the Pescadero watershed which is important for both endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout.
Camp Jones Gulch’s phenomenal habitat is made exponentially greater with neighboring Pescadero Creek County Park and Sam McDonald County Park creating over 10,000 acres of connected habitat—the largest patch of intact habitat in the Santa Cruz mountains. Special status species already known to occur on site include marbled murrelet, San Francisco dusky-footed woodrat, and California red-legged frog. Similar habitat in the region is known to host an additional 21 identified rare animals. Additional species expected to benefit from protecting Camp Jones Gulch and ongoing stewardship of its natural resources include the western pond turtle, San Francisco Garter snake, loggerhead shrike, northern harrier, white-tailed kite, olive-sided flycatcher, several bat species including Townsend’s big-eared bat, hoary bat, and pallid bat.
Once cared for by Indigenous Peoples including the Oljon and Olpen for centuries, the Camp Jones Gulch property was heavily harvested in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and by 1926, just two tracts of old-growth redwoods remained. Eventually, it was owned by Sally M. Black who sold it to the YMCA in 1934. For more than 80 years boys and girls have been able to attend Camp Jones Gulch and find their connection with the natural world making it the first YMCA camp of its kind to serve girls–a condition of Mrs. Black when she sold the land to The Y in the 1930’s. Since 1950, every fourth and fifth grade student in San Mateo County School District, for one week, has experienced “outdoor school” at Camp Jones Gulch, giving them an opportunity to interact with nature and the ancient redwoods in the area.
Connecting Youth and Nature
Thousands of youth from San Mateo County and beyond can attribute their first outdoor experience and connection with nature to Camp Jones Gulch, the first YMCA camp in the country built with inclusion in mind. Since then, Camp Jones Gulch has continued to evolve to increase access for youth to nature. More than five decades of San Mateo School District students have had the opportunity to attend the nature camp for a week free of charge and will continue to for decades to come.
Actively identifying barriers preventing students from attending, Camp Jones Gulch was the first YMCA camp in the nation to bring an Inclusion Specialist on staff who has helped develop opportunities for more youth to feel welcome at camp including the incorporation of international counselors, enormously popular gender neutral cabins, family camps, and plans to improve access for differently abled counselors and campers.
As a result, more campers of all races, ethnicities, identities and abilities have discovered the wonders of nature at Camp Jones Gulch. An equally innovative partnership will not only help to protect the forest and its inhabitants that campers come to enjoy, it will also help make it possible for more youth to access and feel included in the redwoods for generations to come.
photo by Canopy Dynamics
Camp Jones Gulch is crucial for the future of redwood forests, wildlife, and our youth. To permanently protect its 928 acres of inspiring and vital forest, creeks, and habitat from outside logging and development, we have entered into a contract to purchase a conservation easement for $9.625 million. The easement will allow us to partner with The Y of San Francisco to care for the forest and its surroundings in partnership, in consultation with the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, and Muwekma Tribal Band. A conservation easement and partnership with The Y and Camp Jones Gulch will ensure perpetual monitoring and implementation of a Stewardship Plan to enhance and restore forest health, reduce the threat of wildfire, and promote climate resiliency across multiple wildlife habitats.
In addition to the conservation easement, which will forever protect Camp Jones Gulch’s natural resources, we will create a $422,000 stewardship fund to manage the partnership and monitor the easement. The partnership will enable The Y to complete infrastructure upgrades and repairs to the camp and implement stewardship programs to improve the health and resilience of the forest habitats. We are excited for the rare opportunity to care for significant old-growth and second generation redwoods, work with dynamic partners in The Y and the camp, and to teach stewardship practices to the youth of San Mateo County and the region. As we face down the threats of climate change, partnerships like these are the future of both conservation and resilient forest management.
To support protecting redwoods, including those at Camp Jones Gulch, make a donation today.