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NEWS: Sterrenzee Ridgetop Acquired to Expand Footprint of Big Basin Redwoods State Park Area Conservation

Contact: Matt Shaffer, 415.609.2750, mshaffer@sempervirens.org

Aerial view of Sterrenzee Ridgetop, Saddle Mountain Vista, and the Gateway to Big Basin, along Highway 236. Since early 2022, Sempervirens Fund has purchased these three properties in the Saddle Mountain conservation area, at the eastern edge of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo: Jordan Plotsky

Aerial view of Sterrenzee Ridgetop, Saddle Mountain Vista, and the Gateway to Big Basin, along Highway 236. Since early 2022, Sempervirens Fund has purchased these three properties in the Saddle Mountain conservation area, at the eastern edge of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Photo: Jordan Plotsky

San Mateo, Calif., May 17, 2023 — Today, Sempervirens Fund, California’s first land trust, announced the acquisition of Sterrenzee Ridgetop, a 16.5-acre forested property adjacent to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Sterrenzee, Dutch for “Sea of Stars,” offers stunning views along the eastern edge of the park, into Big Basin, and out to Boulder Creek to the east. The property features second-growth redwoods and hardwoods, which were minimally affected by the 2020 CZU wildfire that swept through most of the park.

Sterrenzee Ridgetop directly connects the park with the 153-acre Gateway to Big Basin, which Sempervirens Fund purchased for protection in 2022. This acquisition follows the purchase and permanent protection of another property, Saddle Mountain Vista, in January of this year. That 15-acre property on the south side of California Highway 236 has impressive views of the San Lorenzo Valley.

“This series of land acquisitions will expand protection of the old-growth forests at the heart of Big Basin and support efforts to re-establish the park as a vibrant destination where people can experience ancient redwoods,” said Sara Barth, Executive Director of Sempervirens Fund. “As we face down the threats of climate change, acquiring and conserving these lands is more critical than ever.”

The timely purchase and protection of these properties—Gateway to Big Basin, Sterrenzee Ridgetop, and Saddle Mountain Vista—is significant for California State Parks’ forthcoming public planning process to reimagine the park’s conservation, recreation, and visitor-serving infrastructure as it recovers from the CZU wildfire. The eastern edge of the park, Saddle Mountain, is envisioned as the likely hub for new visitor services and staff infrastructure rather than rebuilding in the ecologically sensitive old-growth areas. These protected properties may also provide recreational and interpretive experiences. These purchases align with the next phase of State Park’s Reimagining Big Basin planning process, slated to begin this summer.

The Sterrenzee and Saddle Mountain properties abut existing state park land and are intended to expand the park’s footprint in the future — increasing their conservation value even more.  They are also adjacent to a series of properties that Sempervirens had previously purchased and transferred to the park.

“We believe permanently preserving forests adjacent to Big Basin is essential to the park’s future,” said Chris Spohrer, California State Parks Superintendent. “Sempervirens Fund’s newly protected properties at Saddle Mountain extend the park’s protection of redwood forests and the Boulder Creek watershed. As we work on Reimagining Big Basin, these properties align with our and the public’s expectations for the park’s future.”

Sempervirens Fund will actively manage the properties as conservation lands, with a focus on supporting forest recovery from wildfire, until they are added to the park.

“Not only are forests in the Santa Cruz mountains still recovering from wildfire, but they’ve had to deal with drought, heat, and flooding,” said Laura McLendon, Sempervirens Fund’s director of land conservation. “Active forest management is critical to restore these forests and help diminish the severity of any future wildfire, especially in the years following a major event like the CZU fire. It is vital for community safety, as well as forest health.”

Stewardship of the properties will continue to feature hazard tree removal, selective thinning to boost tree health and canopy cover, removal of non-native species, and other interventions to boost forest recovery.

Sempervirens Fund has established stewardship funds for both properties, which will be managed in conjunction with the Gateway to Big Basin for forest health, recovery, and resilience. Sterrenzee Ridgetop was purchased for $500,000 from Kurt and Mary Mortensen, and Saddle Mountain Vista was purchased for $376,500 from Andrea Potter. Funding for the purchases was secured with support from Resources Legacy Fund and the generosity of Sempervirens Fund donors.

 

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