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NEWS: Sempervirens Fund Acquires Properties for New Entrance to Big Basin Redwoods State Park; AB 2103 Advances in State Legislature

Saddle Mountain properties key for future Big Basin visitor services; AB 2103 (Pellerin) prioritizes land acquisition at Big Basin following CZU fire

Map of the properties acquired by Sempervirens Fund since the 2020 CZU fire that will help establish the Saddle Mountain Welcome Area at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Properties acquired by Sempervirens Fund since the 2020 CZU fire will help establish the Saddle Mountain Welcome Area at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Boulder Creek, Calif. (April 26, 2024) — Today, Sempervirens Fund, California’s first land trust, announced the purchase of two properties adjacent to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which are intended to support California State Parks in creating a new entrance at Big Basin, ensuring the long-term health of its old-growth redwoods, and improving access for visitors, especially in response to the 2020 CZU fire.

Although only 10 acres, the two properties combine with 184 acres of land protected by Sempervirens Fund since 2022, in the conservation area the state agency calls Saddle Mountain. Combined, the nearly 200 acres of redwoods will be key in Reimagining Big Basin as State Parks envisions the relocation of park infrastructure like visitor services and employee housing away from their former location near prime old-growth redwood habitat. Planning for reimagining Big Basin commenced following the CZU Fire in 2020, which burned 97% of Big Basin, including the original visitor’s center and other park services buildings.

Assemblymember Gail Pellerin’s AB 2103, which passed out of committee earlier this week, makes it easier for State Parks to acquire land for Big Basin, as well as Butano and Año Nuevo State Parks.

Green shrubs and tree tops line a ridge overlooking forested hills with some fire scars out to mountains beyond below a blue sky with a fluffy white cloud, by Orenda Randuch

The view from Sterrenzee Ridgetop, one of six properties protected for the Saddle Mountain Conservation Area since the 2020 CZU fire. Photo by Orenda Randuch.

“We’re thrilled to be able to expand protected land in the Saddle Mountain Conservation Area and look forward to State Parks acquiring the 200 acres to secure the new entrance to Big Basin,” said Sara Barth, Executive Director of Sempervirens Fund. “A big takeaway from the Reimagining Big Basin process was that we need to relocate critical park infrastructure away from the old-growth forests, and this land is the perfect site to make that vision a reality. Advancing AB 2103 would help expedite Reimagining Big Basin at a critical time.”

“AB 2103 will help provide State Parks timely transfers of land acquired by conservation organizations near Big Basin, Año Nuevo, and Butano State Parks to speed up the land acquisition process and permanently protect lands for conservation, cultural, or recreational purposes,” stated Gail Pellerin (D- Santa Cruz). “Following the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Wildfire, which burned across the entirety of Big Basin Redwoods State Park and portions of surrounding parks, this bill is important to reimagine the future of Big Basin, California’s oldest state park.”

Both properties, located in the Boulder Creek Watershed, are sparsely forested with second growth redwoods and hardwoods and contain very impressive views of the upper San Lorenzo Valley. Sempervirens Fund now owns 6 properties in the Saddle Mountain Conservation Area, including the Gateway to Big Basin, Saddle Mountain Vista, and the properties that comprise Sterrenzee Ridgetop.

A simplified artist rendering shows the Park Core Vision Concepts for Big Basin with the entrance and welcome area at Saddle Mountain, trails at the old-growth redwoods near the historic headquarters, campground and operations at Sky Meadow, and campground and group recreation at Little Basin, from California State Parks

The Park Core Vision Concepts for Big Basin with the entrance and welcome area at Saddle Mountain. From

Together they are likely to be the future home for new visitor-serving facilities at Big Basin. State Parks’ Reimagining Big Basin Vision Summary from 2022 identifies Saddle Mountain as the ideal location to create a park welcome center with some new park buildings and day-use parking away from the old-growth redwood forests where they have historically been housed. Relocating park development and infrastructure, most of which were destroyed by the CZU Fire, out of the forest will increase the health and resiliency of Big Basin’s old-growth redwoods.

“Reimagining Big Basin will only be successful with partners stepping up to advance critical needs, like expanding the area of parklands around Saddle Mountain to accommodate necessary visitor-serving facilities,” said Chris Spohrer, Superintendent, Santa Cruz District-California State Parks. “We are grateful to Sempervirens Fund and their donors for protecting nearly 200-acres of forests at the entrance to Big Basin over the last three years.”

Sempervirens Fund paid $845,000 for both properties, and funding for the purchases came from the Lipman Family Foundation and more than 600 individual donors, including one bequest.

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