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What Big Basin's Redwoods Mean to You (and Why They'll Be OK)

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Big Basin Redwoods State Park, captured by Stephanie Wu  (Stephanie Wu)

Big Basin Redwoods State Park was California’s first ever state park, established in 1902. And for many of us in the Bay Area, it’s a beloved place.

So when the CZU Lightning Complex fires raged through the Santa Cruz mountains, scarring the trees and razing the historic Visitor’s Center, there were a lot of feelings even though it looks like the majority of those majestic trees are going to be just fine.

Some of Big Basin’s redwoods are over 300 feet tall, and potentially as ancient as 2,500 years old. Those big, beautiful trees witnessed weddings, family reunions, first camping trips and so much more. So we asked you for your treasured memories and photographs of Big Basin on KQED News’ Instagram, so we could showcase them here.

Scroll down for more, and to read about how California’s increasingly devastating wildfires might affect special places like Big Basin. (Some submissions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Jessica Vans’ son in Big Basin Redwoods State Park (Jessica Vans via Instagram)

Big Basin is so near and dear to our family’s hearts. Exposing nature to our boys of color is our way of breaking social barriers and constructs. They’ve learned to love and respect nature which in turn they can apply to their fellow human. —Jessica Vans (Instagram: @cocovans123)

The wildfires pouring smoke into the Bay Area are a painful reminder of our state’s relationship to wildfire. The redwood trees have survived hundreds of fires forestry experts estimate there was a fire every nine to 25 years based on samples from the trees themselves but the effect of these fires on humans is often painful and scary.

“This was shot from our campsite at Sempervirens Campground the day before the park was evacuated,” says Nicole Haddenham (Nicole Haddenham)

We have always loved the power of the California redwoods, but there was something special about that park. [On our first visit] my mom also invited one of my friends to join us camping. My friend took my mom up on that offer … We had a great time just being in the beauty, walking the trails, sipping coffee by the fire under the redwoods. She and I were married four years later. Big Basin will always have a special place in my heart.

— Nick (Instagram: @minusnick)

Ariane Luzano in Big Basin Redwoods State Park (Ariane Luzano (@arianalovelle on Instagram))

And these fires are different from what California saw historically.


Before, fires were frequent and low intensity. They actually help keep the forest healthy, cleaning out the understory — the underlying layer of vegetationand helping redwoods and sequoias to sprout new seeds.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, captured by Stephanie Wu (Stephanie Wu)

I’m 55 years old and I have been going to Big Basin for as long as I can remember. I remember playing and climbing on the redwood logs with my brother as a little girl. This is a picture of my fiancé (now husband) in 1990, when we got engaged [below]. — Lynette Purves (Instagram: @tea4netta)

Lynette Purves’ husband pictured in Big Basin in 1990 (Lynette Purves (@tea4netta on Instagram))

Big Basin was the first place I recall going camping as a kid nearly 60 years ago. It was a favorite hiking and courting spot as a young adult. The smell of redwood is magical! It’s also where I learned about poison oak the hard way. So grateful that some its ancient giants survived! — Lisa (Instagram: @technicolor.kid)

After decades of fire suppression, fuel has built up in many forests, making current fires burn hotter and more intensely. To make matters worse, climate change has dried out the land, and led to hotter, drier summers.

“Big Basin means so much to me,” says Jennifer Lynn Sharpe. (Jennifer Lynn Sharpe)

Big Basin means so much to me. I’ve gone solo camping and forgotten my sleeping bag. I met a little girl there while hiking with my now husband who inspired us to have a child of our own. I’ve hiked from the general store to the Pacific Ocean. I’ve had to hike from Hollow Tree Trail back to Huckleberry campsite in the dark because we were having too much fun and lost track of time. I learned there that I could use Fritos as a fire starter. Not to mention the endless epic conversations that go on and on at night around the fire. Ecstatic to hear the redwoods survived. —Jennifer Lynn Sharpe

Even though the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire was devastating, don’t despair! It looks like most of Big Basin’s trees survived. They’ll be sprouting new green foliage in a few months and over time the charred bark will get absorbed.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, captured by Lety (@blackisthesoul.17 on Instagram) (Lety (@blackisthesoul.17 on Instagram)

There are solutions to the state’s wildfire problems, but some of them are difficult to talk about. There may be places that aren’t safe to build or rebuild homes, for one. Another is to strengthen building codes to make new homes more fire resistant.

Finally, state and federal land managers are starting to partner with California’s native tribes, who practice cultural burning at low fire danger times of the year, to help introduce more controlled burning to the land.

Big Basin State Park has always been such a special place to our family. Seeing the size of the majestic redwoods has a very interesting way of putting life into perspective. They were here before us and our hope is that they will be here long after us. —Jennifer (Instagram: @ourfinehouse)

Big Basin Redwoods State Park (Jennifer (@ourfinehouse) via Instagram)

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