SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—On Tuesday, September 2, Chris Spohrer, a California state parks district superintendent, announced that Big Basin Redwoods State Park will stay closed to the public for at least one year. Park officials are focused on determining how to restore and reopen the park in the wake of extensive damage caused by the CZU Lightning Complex fires.
Spohrer made the announcement after leading California Governor Gavin Newsom, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Peter Gaynor, and other state officials on a tour of the heavily burned park.
Big Basin State Park is the oldest state park in California. Since 1902, people have flocked to this park in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains to hike through the largest collection of redwoods south of San Francisco. According to Big Basin’s website, some of the redwoods are more than 50 feet wide, as tall as the Statue of Liberty, and between 1000 to 1800 years old.
While many of the most majestic redwoods, such as the “Mother and Father of the Forest,” are expected to survive the fire’s destruction, the state park faces other fire-caused hazards that will take time to fix. Park officials have to determine which trees to remove and which to leave up. In addition, park officials fear that flames from the CZU Complex fire have limited the soil’s ability to retain enough moisture. As a result, there is a greater risk of flooding and debris storms that could come from winter rains.
The fires destroyed the park’s headquarters, visitor center, nature museum, and store. They also burned vegetation and fallen tree trunks.
According to J.D. Morris of the SF Chronicle, Spohrer said, “My heart really does break… The memories here. The generational commitment… this is a really meaningful place to all of us.”