Big Basin state park destroyed by fire earns money to rebuild in the governor’s budget

Big Basin state park destroyed by fire earns money to rebuild in the governor’s budget

Losses include more than 100 buildings, from the park headquarters and 20 ranger homes to a museum and lodge. Many of the trails have become un-navigable amid the charred forest and 46 pedestrian bridges were destroyed. “This is a significant signal and down payment for Big Basin’s future, but it is too early to tell how much re-imagining the park will cost,” said Sara Barth, executive director of Sempervirens Fund, one of the group’s fund-raising on the park’s behalf. Roughly 97% of the park burned, most of it the sprawling backcountry, according to park estimates. However, scientists studying the fire’s aftermath say the forest will eventually rebound, and some areas will be better — and healthier — for it.

The Big Basin Redwoods State Park was hit by a wildfire in August 2020 that burned roughly 97 percent of the park’s 18,224 acres. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)Carolyn Cole/TNS The governor’s $267.8 billion budget plan for the coming fiscal year includes $217 million for wildfire restoration, almost all of it pegged for Big Basin. The money adds to a small cache raised by conservation groups and park supporters, who had been seeking a much larger sum to fully restore the popular site.

While the cost of rebuilding the 18,000-acre park is still being assessed, and planning for what will and what won’t return is just beginning, the proposed state funds would go a long way to making the park whole again. Damages were initially estimated to be slightly less than $200 million, but that number is likely to grow. Some stands of Douglas fir and tanoak were completely razed and made sections of forest unrecognizable.

Officials have said that Big Basin, even parts of its wilderness, is unlikely to reopen this summer, with the exception of the Ranch del Oso area along the coast. The nature and history center there is scheduled to open on Saturdays and Sundays, starting Memorial Day weekend. Parts of the park are still being cleared of hazardous debris and burned infrastructure from the fire. The headquarters building was burned to the ground at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 in Boulder Creek, Calif.LiPo Ching/Special to The Chronicle

Along the classic Redwood Loop Trail in the former headquarters area, park officials believe that the roughly 30 iconic trees that were once given names because of their commanding stature survived the blaze. More than 90% of the park’s total redwoods are thought to have lived through the fire. “Our human life spans are so short and we’re very aware of change, but we’re not aware of what happens in the longer term,” said Joanne Kerbavaz, a state parks senior environmental scientist. “I have great faith in nature.”

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