While most tourists seeking redwoods in California may automatically opt for Muir Woods National Park (the park receives over 1.1 million visitors each year!) they will soon have another spectacular option to visit once the Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve opens to the public in 2021. The redwood forest had been under the protection of the Richardson family for over 100 years and when Harold Richardson, the family’s patriarch, passed away in 2016 at age 96, he left the ancient forest to his heirs, who in turn have worked with Save the Redwoods League to protect it for future generations (this negotiation took over 10 years). News about the forest and the family’s plans came out last summer but we now have an idea of when the public will be able to see the 730 acres of spectacular trees–some of which are as tall as a 32 story building.
As Save the Redwoods League wrote, this large, complex forest is about three hours north of San Francisco, and it looks much as it did thousands of years ago with large, ancient giants among younger healthy trees. The oldest known coastal redwood south of Mendocino County and the widest coast redwood south of Humboldt County has been discovered on the property; it is estimated to be 1,640 years old with a trunk as wide as a two-lane street. As Outside Online reported, Save the Redwoods will manage the park rather than turn it over to a state or federal system. When the reserve opens to the public, it will be the largest redwood park in Sonoma County. The league wants to emphasize educating visitors about forest ecology and the land’s cultural importance to the Kashia Band Native American tribe.
Why This Matters: When settlers moved West during the gold rush, hundreds of thousands of acres of ancient giant sequoia trees were felled to provide timber for San Francisco’s growing population. Many of the tallest trees were lost and today only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains. That’s why it’s so important to protect the trees that are left. Additionally, the property could also be critical for researching how climate change affects redwoods because these trees are growing farther from the coast than most other redwoods. As Stephanie Martin, senior project manager and wildlife biologist at North Coast Resource Management explained: “They’ve been able to figure out how to survive in the warmer, drier environment with less of a fog layer, so these may be the redwoods of the future.” We’ll keep you posted on further details as they emerge about the opening of the preserve.