Justin Garland - POST
By ,
Redwoods Program Manager

We have big news!

A giant piece of the puzzle in our growing network of protected land has been laid in place. Just this month, Save the Redwoods League (the League), supported by POST’s close partnership and funding, completed the purchase of the 564-acre Cascade Creek property in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is a critical landscape for conservation, harboring one of the most extensive, privately-owned stands of old-growth redwoods in the Bay Area, which provide essential habitat for endangered species like the sea-faring marbled murrelet.

Redwoods Program POST
Cascade Creek is marked here in blue. Click to zoom in.

Nestled between Big Basin and Año Nuevo State Parks, the acquisition of this property was announced a year ago and establishes a continuous stretch of protected habitat from the ridgeline to the Pacific Ocean. And although Cascade Creek was significantly damaged in the CZU Lightening Complex fire this past August, the landscape’s permanent preservation creates a unique opportunity to care for and restore a wide range of habitat types, from the rocky coasts to the wind-scoured uplands of our redwood forests.

Hope in the Face of Fire

We were all saddened and shocked when the CZU Lightening Complex burned much of Cascade Creek in August and September. This was the largest fire the Santa Cruz Mountains have experienced in modern history, burning close to 90,000 acres through the heart of our mountain redwood habitat. But as devastating as this fire was for our local communities and landscapes, we have been heartened to discover that wild places like Cascade Creek did not experience a total loss.

 

Cascade Creek harbors close to 100 acres of old-growth redwood forest, one of the more extensive stands in the entire Bay Area. In spite of the recent wildfire, the trees within this forest are among the best on the planet for sequestering climate-warming carbon dioxide. Video footage courtesy of the League.

After an initial assessment, we’re cautiously optimistic that the old-growth redwood trees on this property — a species that we know are well adapted to fire — will recover over time. We’ve toured the property (safely, of course) and were pleased to see that the fire burned through the redwood forest at a lower intensity, staying mostly close to the ground and out of the forest’s more flammable treetops. That said, some of the upper chaparral areas burned severely, and recovery here will still take time. Together with our partners, we plan to carefully monitor what happens naturally on the land and to determine where, when and how we can help.

In the face of so much change, it’s important for me to remember that places like Cascade Creek are living landscapes that evolve over time. And that we protect these places not only for the benefits they provide this year and next, but for hundreds of years from now — and beyond.

Forever in the Making

POST has been working with our partners to protect this land for a long time. Finally, in the summer of 2019, the League negotiated a purchase price of $9.6 million to acquire the property from the Holmes family. This is the same logging family from whom POST and the League acquired Peters Creek Redwoods in 2013.  After securing the option to buy Cascade Creek, the League launched a successful fundraising campaign securing donations from many generous individuals. The California State Coastal Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and POST ($2 million) also provided significant funding that enabled us to close the deal in December 2020.

Before and after fire at Cascade Creek
The view from the top of Cascade Creek looking southwest toward the ocean both before and after the recent wildfire. Photo courtesy of the League.

Before the fire, I had the chance to walk this property and discovered that my feet were the best receptors for learning this territory. I followed an old logging road that starts in the coastal prairie at the bottom of the property and wound my way upward through a thick canopy of second growth and old-growth redwoods — much of which has since burned — before reaching the ridgeline for panoramic views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the ocean below.

As I climbed higher along the ridge and emerged from the dense canopy, the sounds of the forest gave way to the expansiveness of the larger landscape. The views from the top of the ridgeline are, without a doubt, among the best in the entire mountain range. From there, you can see almost the entire Cascade Creek watershed, the rocky coast of Año Nuevo and into the contiguous protected lands of Big Basin.

So many people have walked this landscape before me. With each placement of my boot, I followed in the footsteps of the indigenous tribes who still call this landscape home, as well as the many generations of logging families who worked in and have cared for this forest. My tracks, and those of my contemporaries, are just the most recent layer in this land’s history and the beginning of a whole new chapter in the Cascade Creek story.

In the coming years, the League aims to transfer this property to California State Parks for long-term management — permanently securing this landscape as a place that benefits wildlife and people alike.

             

Learn more about our redwoods program here.

About Post

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 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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