7/31/2012 Correspondence

July 31, 2012
California State Parks Planning Division
Big Basin Redwoods SP Planning Team
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA. 94296-0001

 Dear Big Basin Planning Team,

         The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council is a non-profit organization comprised of environmental scientists and natural resource professionals whose purpose is to conserve natural biodiversity within the Bioregion.   The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregion extends from San Francisco in the north to the Pajaro River in the south and from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the San Francisco Bay on the east and includes all of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  

         The park contains some very valuable biotic resources included nesting sites for the endangered marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus).  In 2011 murrelets have been detected in Redwood Meadow, Huckleberry Campground, Blooms Creek Campground, and at other areas.  Occupied behaviors, indicative of nesting nearby, were noted at Blooms Creek Campground and the meadow.   The park also has largest remaining stand of old-growth redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains (about 4300 acres or greater than 40 % of the total remaining old-growth forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregion).

         Both the Bioregional Council and individual members of the Council have been active in efforts to protect park resources and educate park visitors.  Most recently the Council helped the parks department to secure a grant that paid for the acquisition of 240 food storage lockers, 150 of which were installed at campsites in Big Basin.  Individual members have contributed their time to share information about the distribution and management needs of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), coho salmon (O. kisutch), red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi), and the marbled murrelet.  They  have also mapped the extend of old-growth redwood within the park boundaries, and provided training sessions in redwood ecology for state park staff and park docents.  Thus we are very concerned about the future direction of park management.   

         We have reviewed the Preliminary General Plan and Draft EIR and would like to offer some comments about the preferred plan and the alternatives.  First of all, we don't feel that enough detail was given about the alternatives in either the draft plan or the draft EIR to allow a proper evaluation of the alternatives.  Consequently our comments will be directed primarily toward the preferred alternative.

         We cannot support the preferred alternative as it is defined now, as it would increase visitor use in the park and we feel that the park is too congested in the summer, especially so on weekends and holidays.   Excessive visitors and their vehicles produce such adverse impacts as air quality degradation, noise pollution, trampling of vegetation and soil, and the disruption of normal behavior patterns of native birds and wildlife through abundant human presence.  The large number of visitors and reduced ranger staff have lead to a general lack of compliance with many park regulations designed to protect the environment. 

We specifically oppose the following components of the preferred general plan:

  1. New overnight cabins in the Sky Meadow Group Camp area
  2. Additional or expanded equestrian facilities in both the greater Park Headquarters area and the Rancho del Oso area
  3. New bicycle camp in the Rancho del Oso area
  4. Road widening to two lanes of the Little Basin Road

We support strongly the following components of the preferred general plan:

  1. Development of parking lots, shuttle service, and park administrative offices in the Saddle Mountain area
  2. Maintaining the existing back-country road system for service and emergency vehicles – to allow efficient fire-control and law enforcement in the back country area.
  3. Back-country auto tours for handicapped persons
  4. Remodeling/repair of the Lodge building to proved a meeting room and facilities for docents and natural history interpreters.

We recommend adding the following provisions to the preferred alternative:

  1. Expanded ranger presence in the park to allow more perimeter patrols, and more back-country patrols.
  2. Development of a road and trails management plan, which among other things would evaluate the need to remove or relocate some trails or trailheads.
  3. Acquisition, if available for sale, of the agricultural and timberlands bordering Rancho del Oso within the Waddell Creek Watershed
  4. Better coordination with the California Department and the U.S. Fish and Game for management of marbled murrelet habitat and the habitat of other rare or endangered species.
  5. Closing and rehabilitation of the Blooms Creek Campground as it in the heart of the murrelet use area.  Encourage campers to use Little Basin Campground instead.
  6. Provide better food sanitation and trash management activities. Increase the number of trash pickups and timing of them so as to avoid over-filling of trash receptacles.
  7. Provide clean-up and table sanitation efforts in the picnic areas during the summer.  On Friday, Saturday, and Sundays during the late afternoon have staff make a sanitation sweep through the picnic areas cleaning off food wrappers and scraps from fire grills, picnic tables, or the ground nearby
  8. Modify restrooms to provide outside dishwashing sinks with cleanable grease traps to provide an alternative to campers who now wash their dishes under the water spigots, which then tend to collect food residue, and attract corvids.
  9. Provide interpretive signing on each picnic table that explains why visitors should not feed the animals, should leave the site clean after their use, and should not throw food scraps into the fire.
  10. Implement a program to restore native vegetation to the sites of early-day buildings, parking lots, campgrounds, etc. that have since been removed but have not recovered due to the lack of restoration of healthy physical, chemical, and biological soil conditions. These sites are relatively small, but many such sites exist.    

       In addition, the plan indicates that tidewater goby are present in the lagoon at Waddell Creek.  They were eliminated in 1973, reintroduced in 1991, and eliminated again in the mid-1990's by storms.  The park should urge their reintroduced by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which proposes Waddell Creek as critical habitat for the tidewater goby.
        Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Big Basin Preliminary General Plan and Draft EIR.  If you require clarification of our concerns or need additional information, please feel free to contact us. 

Diane L. Renshaw, Pres.