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Nothing smells like Barrett Canyon.
The vegetation in the heart of this recent POST acquisition is dominated by flourishing and highly fragrant native trees and plants. California bays, coast live oaks, big-leaf maples, alders, sycamores, dogwood, California blackberry, ferns and horsetails thrive in the shaded, cool waters of the year-round flowing Barrett Creek. The result is a blend of strong smells so distinctively native to California.
When the rest of Santa Clara County is experiencing scorching heat and many creeks have gone dry, Barrett Creek is a welcome oasis. Whereas many creeks in the New Almaden area are impacted by the history of mercury mining and human development, Barrett Creek remains one of the few that appears to have been relatively unaltered.
It is no surprise that POST and its partner, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (the Authority), were interested in acquiring this property for its ecological richness and its location in the heart of the critical habitat and wildlife linkage corridor that connects the Santa Cruz mountains with Coyote Valley, the Diablo Range and the rest of California.
Above you will see images of the property’s various dilapidated housing before and after our restoration efforts. The red arrow provides a reference point to see how this landscape has changed.
When we protected 326 acres in Barrett Canyon, we also took responsibility for five uninhabitable structures, including an auto shop, and three outbuildings that were in advanced stages of disrepair (one of which contained asbestos). Additionally, the property contained remnants of multiple illegal marijuana grows and house-sized junk piles.
The property needed a serious clean-up before it could be transferred to the Authority for long-term management and, eventually, public use. We needed to “rewild” Barrett Canyon, returning the land to a more natural, pristine state.
To get the job done, POST hired Randazzo Enterprises, Inc. out of Castroville to safely remove hazardous materials, maneuver heavy equipment on steep slopes with only minimal impacts to the landscape, demolish and haul away eight structures and keep all debris out of the flowing creek.
Via numerous trips on a narrow, creek-side dirt road, Randazzo removed over two million pounds of material from the property, including 6,000 pounds of asbestos that was manually separated and hauled away. The rest of the material was brought to local facilities specializing in sorting demolition debris and diverted 78% (~1.6 million pounds of wood, metal, and other material) from the landfill.
It feels good to have participated in the restoration of Barrett Canyon. Once finished with our rewildling efforts, the property was transferred to the Authority in January 2019. They are now working with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to plan how to integrate this property within the surrounding network of open spaces. Keep an eye out for public access planning meetings in the future and look forward to the day you too can experience the distinct beauty (and smell) of this wild canyon.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 76,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.