Five miles south of La Honda amid the Santa Cruz mountains lies a well-known stretch of redwood forest called Camp Jones Gulch. Locals young and old share fond memories of the beloved YMCA camp that has operated within its boundaries for over 80 years. In addition to the value this land holds for people, the site has an astounding diversity of habitats, making it home to over 40 species of plants and animals! For years, POST and our collaborators in the conservation community have endeavored to protect this crucial landscape for generations to come.
Recently, our colleagues at the Sempervirens Fund met a thrilling milestone. To permanently protect the old growth redwoods and other unique habitats on these vital 920-acres, they acquired a conservation easement for $9.625M. We are thrilled to share that the property has been preserved, and POST is proud to have contributed $2M to this groundbreaking effort.
The benefits of this unique partnership are expansive. It supports conservation of vital natural resources. What’s more, countless local youth will continue to receive outdoor education and equitable access to nature.
Photo Credits: YMCA San Francisco
For over 80 years, local youth have attended YMCA education programs under the vast property’s towering sentinels. Since 1968, students from San Mateo County schools have spent an energizing, action-packed week at Camp Jones Gulch for science school. For my two children, this time away from home was a formative experience. They regaled me with tales of their outdoor studies and adventures, marking the experience as a highlight of their fifth grade year.
For many young campers, Camp Jones Gulch represents a first-ever immersive experience in nature. As such, the YMCA has adapted the environment to meet their campers’ diverse needs by adding welcoming features like international counselors, gender neutral cabins, family camps, and plans to improve access for counselors and campers with disabilities. Built with inclusivity in mind, the YMCA camp is a true champion for equitable access.
But it’s not just these heartwarming memories that make this landscape so precious. The property is home to the 31-acre Valley of Giants, one of the largest unprotected stands of old-growth redwoods in our area. It also houses an incredible array of habitats. Many species of plants and wildlife inhabit the wide expanse of forests and woodlands, as well as the Jones Gulch and McCormick creeks. Located in the Pescadero watershed, these creeks are crucial for endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout.
Another notable feature of Camp Jones Gulch is that it contributes to the largest patch of intact habitat in the Santa Cruz mountains. Two other local landscapes — Pescadero Creek County Park and Sam McDonald County Park — combine with the property to create over 10,000 acres of connected habitat. Among the special status species who occupy these sites are marbled murrelets, San Francisco dusky-footed woodrats and California red-legged frogs.
At POST, we are delighted to have played a key role in protecting this property forever with a conservation easement. This reassuring step ensures the ongoing safety of important natural habitats. It also safeguards the invaluable educational activities we locals remember and love.
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 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more