Historic Big Basin State Park Left Severely Damaged By California Wildfires

by Julie Scagell
Big Basin Redwoods State Park damage
Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The park has seen an influx of people during the pandemic

California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, has sustained extensive damage from the wildfires blazing across the state. According to the Sempervirens Fund, an organization dedicated to protecting and “preserving redwood forests, wildlife habitat, watersheds, and other important natural and scenic features of California’s Santa Cruz Mountains,” the fire has “consumed much of the park’s historic facilities.”

California isn’t a stranger to wildfires, but a combination of fires called the Lighting Complex fires has consumed more than 500,000 acres thus far (that’s half the size of Rhode Island), forcing more than 60,000 people out of their homes, according to the New York Times. The fires were ignited by more than 10,800 lightning strikes over several days. Big Basin Redwoods State Park sits among the hardest hit areas of northern California.

“We are devastated to report that Big Basin State Park, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone,” the Sempervirens Fund Facebook page wrote. “Early reports are that the wildfire has consumed much of the park’s historic facilities. We do not yet know the fate of the park’s grandest old trees.”

Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

MediaNews Group via Getty Images

The park is known for its 80 miles of walking trails, camp grounds, and thousands of redwoods that are between 1,000 and 2,000 years old. “We feel like we have lost an old friend. And we imagine that many of you will feel the same way. For millions of people, Big Basin is the place where they first experienced the majesty of the redwoods — where they were humbled and inspired standing amidst a grove of towering trees that have stood resolute for thousands of years,” Sempervirens Fund continued.

Over 370 fires continue to burn on and six people have been reported dead as a result of the fires, USA Today reported. The fires are only 7 percent contained. “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said, as he addressed the wildfires in a video recorded for the Democratic National Convention.

“We do not know exactly what the future holds, but we do know that coast redwoods are remarkably resilient, thrive even during adverse conditions, and are naturally fire-adaptive,” the Facebook page said. “We intend to be here for the forests we protected in the past to see that they rise to the skies once more.”

The park has seen an influx of visitors during the pandemic as people look for outdoor activities they can do with family. “The fire “would be a tragedy at any point,” Sara Barth, executive director of the Sempervirens Fund. “But it feels especially cruel and apocalyptic at a time of so many other crises.”