My Story of Dedicating a Legacy Redwood Grove
by Michele Garside, April 2016
Isn’t it wonderful when opportunity matches desire? The work of the Sempervirens Fund is very important to me, and I knew I wanted to contribute in a major manner. I thought I’d do so as part of my will. Then, through an unexpected circumstance, I became able to fund a dedicated grove. I got to choose a grove that I could enjoy now and still support open access to our coast redwoods for future generations. Win-win! Thus began an energizing journey facilitated by dedicated staff members at Sempervirens Fund, Amanda Krauss and Carrie Drake.
This is where my fun began. Read on.
Choosing a site for my dedicated grove was easy. Now, it is true that there are already several Sempervirens Fund dedicated redwood trees of significance to me and my family. Both a Garside Family Tree and a tree honoring my Mom, Inez Garside (who turned 100 in July 2015), are located in Castle Rock State Park. My husband and family participated in dedicating those trees. Plus, upon my retirement my friends and colleagues gifted me with an acknowledgement in the Legacy Grove at Castle Rock State Park. Yet, when I decided to dedicate an entire grove, I knew it had to be in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. I love that Big Basin is the oldest state park in California (1902), and I have had many a merry day and night enjoying the trails and campgrounds at Big Basin. It’s perfectly positioned for adventure close to home. Plus, the old growth redwood grove at park headquarters transforms the senses. What an amazing place!
With the site set the next step was to locate the exact grove. Thanks to Tribute Program Manager Amanda Krauss and her careful scouting, I got to spend a day with her hiking various trails in Big Basin that had groves I could explore before making my choice. We walked along streams, near camping spots, through hill and dale until, while walking along the East Ridge Trail above Lodge Road, we came up a rise that led to redwoods that beckoned me to enter. That’s the thing about redwoods for me; I feel their energy. And I will say without embarrassment that I “knew” the minute I touched the redwood tree at the entrance to the grove that this was the grove I wanted to dedicate. It’s magical!
After I was fully entranced by the grove’s “fairy circle,” Amanda introduced me to other aspects of the grove I had chosen. My chosen grove was BIG – over two acres with many different trees and native plants. Situated on a hillside, it had both shady and sunny areas and included several “fairy rings” of redwoods. Oh! In case you’d like an explanation of a redwood “fairy ring or family circle,” also called a sprout ring or clonal ring: When an old growth redwood dies, its off-spring, which are clones of the original tree, sprout up from the ‘mother’ tree’s root structure. They grow around the original tree in a circle thus beginning a whole new cycle and ring of redwood trees. Standing inside this ring gives a person a sense of magic – one feels like Tinkerbell! Amanda took photos and let me dance around before we explored the surrounding area. I love that just up the trail from my dedicated grove is a wonderful viewpoint where we could see clear out to the ocean. Amanda said we walked about a mile on the trail to my grove and back, but I felt we flew back in minutes. What a natural high! I felt blessed.
But wait – there’s more!
Once the grove is chosen and before a recognition sign can be placed in the grove, there is an explicit administrative protocol and sign order process that Sempervirens Fund generously handles for a donor. However, it takes time. I used that time to think about how I wanted to commemorate my grove dedication and decided to share the event with dear friends who also have a close association to the area. I invited them to join me on a hike to the grove followed by lunch in Boulder Creek. To my delight all accepted. Now, as I was planning this ‘Walk in the Woods’ an idea started percolating about how great it would be if each of my friends would agree to dedicate a tree in the grove thus making us connected in perpetuity. When I broached the subject with each girlfriend, she became fully engaged and all wanted to have their dedicated tree in my dedicated grove. We could be joined in a “fairy circle!”
One friend, Kris Campbell, contacted me to share a song she had written for the dedication. We love to harmonize when we sing which this group always does whether we’re kayaking or rafting California’s rivers or cross country skiing or hiking California’s mountains. We practiced via the internet to get our harmonies blended and were prepared to lead the group in song at the dedication.
Now it’s time to dedicate the grove!
On a brisk November morning six eager friends met the Co-Development Director & Director of Donor Relations and Major Gifts, Carrie Drake at the Big Basin Park Headquarters and Visitor Center, also called Sempervirens Room. After exploring the center and walking the Redwood Loop Trail through the mammoth redwood grove there, we set off for the trail to my dedicated grove. I had glasses in my backpack for a celebratory toast at the site. We walked happily along the trail until we came to the rise that leads to the grove, and there it was: THE MICHELE GARSIDE MAGICAL GROVE – with a dedication sign in plain sight right in the middle of the circle of redwoods. We rushed to the grove. Such beauty and majesty! I had prepared an agenda for the dedication (the consequence of being an administrator for so many years) and led the group through a short ceremony that ended with the song and a toast.
We scouted the area as each investigated where she wanted her dedicated tree. There was an enticing, closely connected fairy circle to the left of the trail, but ultimately, we decided to adopt the redwood trees in the fairy circle surrounding the sign. After much racing about and discussion each woman found her personal tree that she wanted to dedicate. Carrie dutifully marked the tree and delighted in taking photos of each of us touching our chosen tree. Then we all held hands and affirmed our beautiful friendship that will always be connected in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Originally, we had planned on hiking to the lookout beyond my grove since it was such a clear day, but time got away from us and soon we had to return to our cars in order reach Boulder Creek before Scopazzi’s Restaurant & Lounge ended lunch service. Joyfully we skipped and sang our way back to the trail head feeling transformative connectedness. We agreed we’d all return to dedicate our personal trees within the Michele Garside Magical Grove. As of this entry, we are in discussion about what each will write on her dedication stake that honors the individual and connects us to the whole group, and we’re trying to find a date when all can again assemble at Big Basin Redwoods. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, another connection occurred. A friend who could not hike with us due to a recent disability agreed to join us in our friendship circle and will dedicate a redwood tree in absentia. We are exploring with Sempervirens Fund ways in which she can access our fairy circle. In all a mystical seven of us will be joined together: Kris Campbell, Michele Garside, Wendi Haskell, Heidi Mason, Judith Maurier, Carol Provan and Deborah Yarish. I am filled with gratitude for these wonderful women and the friendship this dedication represents.
OK, now you know there will be another chapter to this story when we enact the individual tree dedication, but wait! There is even more to this segment, and it’s very official. Read on!
Thanks to Amanda making the arrangements, I was invited to attend the California Department of Parks and Recreation State Park and Recreation Commission meeting in December in San Francisco. This is an experience I would recommend to all who dedicate groves with Sempervirens Fund. It is professional and personal at the same time. Here’s what happened.
The State Parks Commission holds regular meetings throughout California, and allocates a portion of the meeting for recognition. I thought I would simply stand and be acknowledged for dedicating a redwood grove, but the Commission warmly introduced me and asked me to speak. Then they took a photo of me with Amanda and the Commission chair Diana Wittenberg. What delighted me was that I had the opportunity to express my growing concern for our state government’s apparent inability to provide for basic maintenance, let alone improvements, to California’s greatest treasures: our state parks. Grove dedications are one way individuals can help address this egregious condition. I was pleased that I could lend support to Sempervirens Fund. And, I was asked to educate the Commissioners about “fairy circles” in redwood groves.
I am so grateful for organizations like Sempervirens Fund that are dedicated to preserving our unique lands. Someday in my lifetime I hope our vision for a Great Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains that spans San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties will become a reality. Every dedicated tree and grove helps advance the Great Park vision.