The 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire devastated Big Basin’s resources and infrastructure, creating a “re-set” for the park’s ecosystem. While new growth began to emerge in the months following the fire, regeneration of the park’s ecosystem and reestablishment of public access to the Big Basin will be a long-term process. The process for reestablishing the park includes immediate recovery efforts that are underway, reimagining efforts to renew the vision for the park’s future, and long-term planning and implementation projects. The long-term timeline for these efforts is outlined below:
The Reimagining Big Basin project will engage the public and stakeholders in defining a renewed vision for Big Basin. Although the Big Basin General Plan was updated in 2013 and defines a vision for the park based on significant stakeholder and public input, the devastation caused by the CZU Complex Fire in 2020 has prompted the need to revisit this shared vision with consideration to resources and infrastructure conditions as well as to the changing climatic conditions.
The Reimagining Big Basin project will help to reconnect stakeholders and the public with the park by providing updates on the park’s conditions and recovery efforts, providing informational and educational resources regarding the challenges and opportunities of reestablishment, and seek input regarding the vision for the park’s future. This approximately one-year planning process will culminate with a planning document that will confirm a vision for the future of Big Basin and guide the efforts necessary for reopening the park to the public. For more information about opportunities to participate, click here.
During this recovery, Big Basin will continue to be the “seed bank” for forward-thinking conservation and management of California’s redwood forests. The renewed park will provide access to nature, educational opportunities, and recreation for people of all abilities, and will serve the diverse communities of California. Through strategic and adaptive management, and inclusive storytelling, the park will continue to be one of California’s most iconic natural landmarks, as well as serve as a model for California’s resilient and inclusive parks.
Land management practices will be guided by natural ecological processes and indigenous practices and informed by current science to create landscape that will be resilient in the face of future climate change.
Big Basin’s natural character will be the chief informant of design decisions, with all built elements working together to consistently frame and complement the natural setting. The historic architectural character will be reflected, yet resilience and sustainability will be paramount. The department-wide principles of aesthetic design will be applied to reestablishment efforts to create a space that honors Big Basin as the iconic first California State Park and ensures stewardship for the enjoyment of future generations.
As California’s first state park, Big Basin served as a model for conservation and recreation across the state. This reestablishment effort will be the model for the future State Parks System and will inspire staff and the public to imagine a robust and resilient future for all parks. The renewed Big Basin State Park will represent the State of California’s leadership in planning in the face of climate challenges.
The CZU Lightning Complex fire demonstrated the permeability of the park boundaries and the importance of internal and external connections between land managers, agencies, and the public. Reestablishing Big Basin as a safe, resilient, and accessible Park will necessitate evaluating internal connectivity as well as connections and relationships with park neighbors and managers across the region and landscape.
Visitors will be provided a diversity of opportunities to experience the park’s different resources that are safe and welcoming to all people. Facilities and high-use areas will be located away from sensitive resources and sited to facilitate sustainable forest stewardship. Facilities for staff residing within and near the park will be sited and designed to support staff’s critical role in operations and safety, as well as to foster a sense of community. Access and circulation will be managed to direct visitor flow, reduce congestion, and enhance visitors’ park experience. While efforts will be made to enhance the visual quality of the forest, the public will be kept informed about the forest lifecycle and ongoing resource management to balance understanding and expectations of the park experience.
Big Basin was the site of family gatherings, adventures, and connections to nature for generations of visitors. While we will all need to get used to a change in landscape and facilities, Big Basin will continue to provide unparalleled natural experiences for all Californians with a renewed commitment to equitable access and inclusivity in this next phase of park life. The history of the park as a public asset will continue to be highlighted as the next generation of park stewards and advocates are introduced to the Big Basin Redwoods community and are provided opportunities to create new memories.
Transparent and consistent communication will educate and inform the public, stakeholders, and partners of the park’s conditions and recovery. The reestablishment process will allow for continued dialogue with the public and opportunities for engagement to continue to grow and maintain support for the park and the special location it protects. Expectations for re-opening and for the future experiences the park will offer will be guided by clear, honest, and engaging communication.
Two committees have been formed to ensure an inclusive and informed planning process for Reimagining Big Basin Redwoods, including an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from stakeholder organizations and interest groups and a Steering Committee comprised of California State Parks’ staff. Members for both committees were appointed by the California State Parks’ executive leadership.
Advisory Committee Members
Teresa Baker, Founder, In Solidarity Project
Sara Barth, Executive Director, Sempervirens Fund
José G. González, Founder, Latino Outdoors
Bonny Hawley, Executive Director, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks
Sam Hodder, President and CEO, Save the Redwoods League
Brenda Holmes, Executive Director, Mountain Parks Foundation
Kindley Walsh Lawlor, President and CEO, Parks California
Valentin Lopez, Tribal Chairman, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
Charlene Nijmeh, Tribal Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area
Steering Committee Members (California State Parks staff)
Matt Bellah, Central Division
Brian Dewey, Facilities and Development
Scott Elliott, Law Enforcement and Emergency Services
Nathan Harper, Facilities District Management
Leslie Hartzell, Cultural Resources
Matthew Millspaugh, Partnership
Alex Stehl, Strategic Planning and Recreation Services
Lori Turner, District Facilities Management
Stacey Yankee, Interpretation and Education
Informational and educational resources will be provided here during the planning process.