Summer is just around the corner! Learn about fire resiliency, celebrate five years of Measure AA accomplishments, see preservation 30 years in the making and more.
There are three ways to enjoy the quarterly newsletter: flip through the online version, scroll below to read, or download a pdf.
California’s fire season is now longer and more intense. Dense regrowth of historic logging areas, more than a century of fire suppression, a changing climate and population growth create these conditions. Today, we can all play a role in living safely with wildland fire in California by restoring a fire-resilient environment.
Wildland fire preparedness is central to Midpen’s work, and we’re focused on increasing fuels reduction in high-priority preserves closest to residential areas.
We’re also working to add prescribed fire to our land management toolbox by 2022, as another way to improve the ecological health of fire-adapted native plant communities while also reducing fuels.
Maintaining fire breaks and fire roads throughout Midpen preserves is an ongoing year-round job. This year, Midpen is completing environmentally sensitive fuels reduction projects, including work at Pulgas Ridge, Windy Hill, El Corte de Madera Creek and Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserves and others.
Midpen rules against camp fires, fire arms and smoking in the preserves are diligently enforced. Midpen field staff also completes annual fire training each spring so, should fire occur, we’re prepared to act swiftly and safely as first responders until a fire suppression agency arrives on scene.
Midpen interpretation and education staff and docents have partnered with Save the Redwoods League (SRL) to offer high school students field trip excursions at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. SRL is a San Francisco-based nonprofit whose mission is to protect and restore coastal redwood forests and connect people with nature. With guidance, students work together to measure the height and diameter of redwood trees, calculate the carbon storage of trees and study the effects of climate change on sword ferns. Students also participate in a Bioblitz, a citizen science activity that documents as many different plant and animal species as possible with the iNaturalist app. Midpen provides transportation reimbursement for these field trips. More than 120 students participated in these field trips during the 2017-18 school year.
- Preserved an additional 1,515 acres
- Restored and opened the Mount Umunhum Summit with visitor amenities
- Built and opened the award-winning Mt. Umunhum Trail
- Completed the Bald Mountain parking area — the gateway to Mount Umunhum
- Improved the 5.4-mile Mt. Umunhum Road
- Restored and constructed public access for Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve for June 2019 opening
- Completed plans and permit submittals to complete critical 0.6-mile gap to create 80 miles of continuous Bay Trail
- Opened lower La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, the Sears Ranch Road parking area and visitor amenities
- Continuing to plan for expanding La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve trail network
- Opened Mindego Hill and the new 2.5-mile Mindego Hill Trail
- Made improvements to the water system and corrals to reintroduce 315 acres of land to conservation grazing
Midpen’s Measure AA: An Investment in Your Community
Midpen’s public open space lands are preserved in perpetuity by and for the people. Forty years after a successful grassroots effort created Midpen, community members came together again and established a vision guiding Midpen’s next 40 years of land preservation, environmental stewardship and public enjoyment and education. Voters funded much of that vision by passing Measure AA in 2014.
We are now celebrating five years of voter-approved Measure AA accomplishments, which is a perfect opportunity to reflect on why this community investment in public open space matters.
Public lands contribute to healthy communities.
Midpen preserves provide clean air, water and local food to surrounding communities. They are also free and open daily providing the public with refuge from urban areas where they can decompress, reenergize and find “room to breathe”. Study after study shows that spending time in nature provides physical, emotional and mental benefits.
Public lands enhance our region’s resiliency to climate change.
Preserved forests are the earth’s lungs, pulling carbon out of the atmosphere while simultaneously creating a cooling effect. Open space lands also allow native plants and wildlife to seek livable habitats in response to changing conditions, and buffer surrounding communities from floods and wildland fires.
Public lands allow plants and wildlife to thrive.
The Santa Cruz Mountains are a biodiversity hotspot, meaning they are home to some of the most diverse and abundant native plants and animals in the world — many of which live nowhere else on earth. They thrive in our region’s preserved open spaces including redwood forests shrouded in summer fog, coastal grasslands, marshy baylands, chaparral-covered ridgelines and mountain peaks.
Your Measure AA investment is more than the sum of its parts. Taken as a whole, these preservation, restoration, public access and agricultural vision plan projects strengthen the fabric and health of our community for everyone. Thank you for your continued support.
Ana María Ruiz,
Saving Open Space
People have been drawn to Bear Creek Redwoods for centuries. Its expansive views and cool shaded forests made it a desirable South Bay property that was once slated to become a golf course and luxury estates. Formed by earthquakes and forest streams, and inhabited by Native Americans, loggers, wealthy estate owners, and even a religious institution, the property has been shaped by many forces and many hands throughout its history. Its beautiful and biologically rich ecosystem is home to hundreds of acres of redwoods, providing the perfect habitat for many protected species.
Instead of expansive homes and putting greens, local conservationists saw room to breathe for plants, wildlife and people. Midpen, in partnership with POST, Committee for Green Foothills and passionate citizens worked together to protect it as open space.
Did You Know?
Redwoods help keep our air clean, removing carbon dioxide and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.
Your Measure AA Dollars at Work
Thanks to the public’s support and passage of Measure AA, Midpen has completed the first of several phased public access projects in Midpen’s 20-year plan to restore Bear Creek Redwoods’ natural environment, providing a unique opportunity for the public to connect with nature and discover local history.
Restoring the Land and Ongoing Stewardship
One of the biggest impacts of human activity is the displacement and degradation of native habitats and ecosystems. When Midpen acquired this land, it was far from pristine. Over 100 years of development and logging altered the original redwood and foothill habitats. Some of the physical changes are important to keep for telling the land’s story. Others, like the introduction of invasive species, are problems that Midpen has already started to resolve. And a few, like the loss of fire-resistant, old-growth redwoods, will take generations of active resource management to undo. Midpen is working to bring back the native landscapes and biodiversity that once thrived on the land. Midpen volunteers, in partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, removed harmful invasive plants along Bear Creek Redwoods’ creeks to improve habitat for rare wildlife. Trail crews converted old logging roads to trails to reduce erosion and improve water quality, and botanists are partnering with researchers to protect the area’s forests from sudden oak death.
Those Handy Boot Brushes
Sudden oak death, or SOD, is an exotic, introduced disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of native oak and tanoak trees in California. Avoid spreading this disease to other areas by cleaning soil and mud off shoes, tires and horse hooves when leaving or entering the preserves.
Releasing Unwanted Pets
Releasing domestic animals into the wild is a bad plan and often has disastrous results. Typically, domestic animals depend on humans for food and are ill-equipped to take care of themselves in the wild. Many end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators. Anyone looking to find a home for their pet should contact their local animal shelter for assistance.
Visit this Summer
Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve is located three miles south of Los Gatos and features an easy-access interpretive trail around Upper Lake and six miles of new trail west of Bear Creek Road. Trails pass through shaded redwood and fir forests and along cool perennial creeks with views of the Sierra Azul range.
Upper Lake Interpretive Walk
During your visit, make sure you check out the Upper Lake Interpretive Walk. It takes visitors on a tour through the Preserve’s layered history. At the nine stops along the Upper Lake Loop Trail, visitors can see habitat restoration sites and artifacts, such as Ohlone bedrock mortars. The walk is an accessible pathway that accommodates mobility devices, strollers and users of all ages and abilities.
The phase one public access improvements to the western area of the Preserve will be open daily, beginning June 8, 2019.
Please note: Due to the rugged and rural location of this Preserve, there is no off-site parking nearby or along the two-lane, winding Bear Creek Road. On-site parking may fill up quickly on weekends. Please consider carpooling or visiting on a weekday.
Leave No Trace in Open Space
Each of us play a vital role in protecting our open space preserves. As we spend time outdoors, it’s important to be conscious of the effects our actions may have on plants, animals, other people and even entire ecosystems. Please pack it in and pack it out.
Be aware that dogs can overheat in open space preserves, particularly on strenuous trails and warm days. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy panting, dry gums, weakness, confusion and inattention. The best approach is prevention:
- Avoid hiking with your dog on hot days, especially in direct sun.
- Bring plenty of water for yourself and your dog. Midpen preserves do not have water fountains.
- Retreat to a cool area, rest and provide water if your dog shows symptoms.
Explore Your Backyard with Free Outings in March
Get outside and explore the forest canopy, tap into the healing powers of nature, explore the lifecycles of native plants, and more with dozens of free seasonal hikes and activities led by Midpen docent naturalists.