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1. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

This park had its origin on September 11, 1929, when the family of the late Frank D. Stout, a former president of the Del Norte Company, Ltd., gave to the State of California 44 acres of redwoods at the confluence of Mill Creek with Smith River. This grove was to be known as the Frank D. Stout Memorial Grove. The Webber tract of 22 acres was purchased in 1931, to be followed by the J. L. Musick tract of 75 acres in 1932. These three groves were combined for administrative purposes and designated the Hiouchi Redwoods State Park. [18]

The area to be preserved and protected for the benefit of the American people was expanded from 147 acres to 6,919 acres in 1939. On December 5 of that year, the California State Park Commission took title to 6,772 acres from the Del Norte Company, Ltd. The purchase price was $80,000, provided by private gifts obtained by the Save-the-Redwoods League from persons in many parts of the United States. An option was secured at this time by the League to purchase an additional 2,518 acres. The funds to secure the additional acreage were to be provided by the state and matching gifts from interested persons, and to be made in installments over the next ten years.

The combined purchase and option represented a total price of approximately $550,000 for 9,290 acres. This was admittedly a higher price per acre than was involved in the $80,000 paid for the 6,772 acres. This difference resulted from the necessity for meeting delinquent taxes on the holdings of the Del Norte Company, Ltd., with funds realized through the sale. Consequently, the $80,000 for this acreage was a tremendous bargain, not representative of the value of this magnificent stand of redwood, which had been assessed by the county at $961,472 for fiscal year 1938 and $780,461 for fiscal year 1939. [19]

Commenting on the acquisition, Newton B. Drury, investigating officer of the California State Park Commission, observed that it "largely realizes an objective established by the Save-the-Redwoods League," as outlined by the Olmstead State Park Survey of 1927. The Olmstead group at that time had urged that the lower Mill Creek watershed be included in the State Park System. In reporting the purchase to the Commission, Drury took cognizance of

the cooperative attitude of the owners and stated that the very favorable price for the first unit was due to their desire to see this outstanding tract of redwoods protected intact, as well as to exceptional circumstances relating to the burden of delinquent taxes on the property. [20]

As was to be anticipated, there was some local opposition to seeing this land removed from the county tax roll. To take the starch out of the opposition, Chairman Matthew M. Gleason of the State Park Commission pointed out that the expanding tourist trade would pump more income into the county's economy than the Board of Supervisors could hope to collect in taxes from the land in question. In the negotiations with the Del Norte Company, Ltd., it had been stipulated that the $80,000 should be paid to the county to liquidate the delinquent taxes. In addition, Gleason observed that if the timber had been logged, the taxes would have ceased. [21]

The purchase, as provided by California law, was approved by Governor Culbert L. Olson and Director J. R. Richards of the Department of Finance. Director Richard Sachse of the Department of Natural Resources was enthusiastic. He told the press:

The saving of these redwoods is a great accomplishment for the State of California and for the Save-the-Redwoods League. Here is a part of California's heritage of natural beauty which we today can be proud to hold unimpaired for the inspiration of generations to come. [22]

With this large addition to Hiouchi Redwoods State Park, the name of the area was changed in 1944 to Mill Creek Redwoods State Park. The acquisition of acreage provided for under the option agreement with the Del Norte Company, Ltd., and the establishment of seven additional memorial groves expanded the park boundaries beyond the Mill Creek watershed. It was accordingly redesignated in 1951 as the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, to honor the first American to see Smith River and to explore the hinterlands of Del Norte and Humboldt Counties. [23]

In 1966 the Save-the-Redwoods League contributed $700,000 toward a land exchange which added "a superlative Coast Redwood virgin forest" to Jed Smith Redwoods State Park. This exchange, which the state negotiated with the Simpson Timber Co., provided for an exchange of scattered state-owned timberland outside the park for "vitally necessary Redwood forest holdings within the park." To make up the difference in the appraised valuation, the League had provided $700,000 and the state $50,000.

The acquired lands totaled 815 acres and extended along U.S. 199, and included two miles of frontage on Smith River. With this acquisition the park acreage was increased to more than 10,000 acres. [24]

2. Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park had its inception on August 20, 1924, when George F. Schwarz of New York purchased 157 acres of redwoods with sea-frontage and deeded them to the State of California. This tract was dedicated in honor of Henry S. Graves, former Chief Forester of the United States Forest Service. Schwarz followed his initial gift by the purchase of two adjoining 130-acre parcels, likewise fronting on the Pacific, which were gift-deeded to the State in April 1926. [25]

The park area was increased by a generous gift from George O. Knapp of Santa Barbara. The Knapp purchase (331 acres) was to the north and south of the Graves Grove, to make certain that no trees would be felled and destroy the natural beauty of the approaches. A government tract of 80 acres, near the Graves Grove, was transferred to the state in the same year. Two tracts, one of 40 acres and the other of 1,568 acres, were purchased by the Save-the-Redwoods League and the State of California and added to the park in 1930. Within six years the park had been expanded to a total acreage of 2,306. [26]

Emerson Knight, in 1931, reported that Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park is noteworthy for its topography, ranging from sea-level to 1,100 feet upward, its rich variety in flora and fauna, and its wealth of impressive scenic beauty. When traveling northward, it is entered shortly after crossing Wilson Creek and continues, five miles in length, to a boundary beyond Knapp's Point. The extreme width is about a mile and a half. The curving course of the Redwood Highway swings along for six miles and attains a height of over 900 feet in the park, while the length of the ocean frontage is also about six miles. The park is unique on account of its redwood forest of stately gigantic trees on steep slopes, being closely related to the dramatic broken shoreline in constant state of evolution, below. The Graves Grove of redwoods lying in the very heart of this park is an area of most extraordinary beauty. [27]

Since 1931, other organizations and corporations, spearheaded always by the Save-the-Redwoods League, succeeded in increasing the park acreage to 6,375 acres. The latest acquisition was a gift-deed for 160 acres made by the Save-the-Redwoods League on March 22, 1966. The largest single acquisition was the 3,030 acres gift-deeded on January 27, 1942, by the North Coast Redwood Co. In the period, 1929-1966, the Save-the-Redwoods League deeded 1,595 acres to the park. [28]

Development in the park features four trails (Footsteps Rock, Damnation, Last Chance, and Mill Creek), and the $1,600,000 Mill Creek Camp Ground. The camp ground and its access road were completed on November 9, 1967, and opened on November 24. The formal dedication was on May 11, 1968. [29]

3. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Ranchers and homesteaders pre-empted most of the lands bordering on Prairie Creek, north of Orick, in the 1880s and 1890s, with the rest of the area now included in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park being staked out as mining and timber claims. The first parcel of land acquired within the boundary of today's park was deeded to the State of California in 1923, as a gift from the pioneer Joseph Russ family of Humboldt County. This 160-acre tract was destined to be known as the Joseph Zipporah Russ Memorial Grove. [30] Several years later, Humboldt County acquired the Roberts Tract (160 acres) and deeded it to the state. [31]

In the winter of 1931-1932, the Save-the-Redwoods League purchased from the Sage Land and Improvement Co., for almost $1,000,000, 4,892 acres of "superb Redwood forest in the heart of the magnificent Prairie Creek region." This substantial land acquisition had been made possible through a gift of $500,000 from Edward S. Harkness of New York. Harkness' contribution was matched in part by private gifts donated through the League, together with $150,000 allocated by the State Park Commission. About the same time, several privately owned tracts within the area (the 286 acres at Boyes Prairie and the 160-acre Cottrell claim) had been purchased, and gift-deeded to the State. These acquisitions, along with the several parcels of vacated government land, had boosted park acreage by March 15, 1932, to almost 6,000 acres. [32]

As of March 15, 1932, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park extended from Boyes Prairie northward to the Del Norte County Line, a distance of seven miles; and from the ridge separating the Prairie Creek basin from the Klamath River watershed on the east to a ridge parallel to and one-half mile west of the Redwood Highway. With the acquisition of this core-area, Chairman J. D. Grant of the Save-the-Redwoods League announced that the

essential parts of three of the League's four major projects have now been preserved. These are the Bull Creek-Dyerville Forest . . .; the Del Norte Coast Park . . .; and the Prairie Creek Park. Small acquisitions have also been made in the Mill Creek-Smith River area [today's Jed Smith Redwoods State Park] north of Crescent City. [33]

Moreover, the league had taken an option for 18 months, "on a beautiful forest tract of 3,270 acres in the Godwood Creek basin." While the League for the time being had no funds to effect this purchase, Grant trusted that the necessary amount could be raised before the expiration of the option. [34] With the nation in the throes of a depression, money was difficult to raise, and the League was unable to purchase all the land under option.

In 1959 the Save-the-Redwoods League acquired and gift deeded to the State Park Commission over 700 acres, fronting for one and one-half miles on the Pacific at Lower Gold Bluffs. Six years later, on May 10, 1965, the League achieved one of its long-term goals by purchasing from the Pacific Lumber Co. the 2,000-acre Fern Canyon tract. The acquisition included the Upper Gold Bluffs, Fern Canyon, and four miles of wild ocean beach. Under the terms of the agreement 30 acres, including Fern Canyon, would be a gift from Pacific Lumber Co. to the State. Meanwhile, the State Park Commission in 1963 had acquired as a gift the Huggins Homestead, which bounded the Fern Canyon Tract on the north. [35]

To successfully discharge its mission, the Save-the-Redwoods League in the years since it was founded in 1918 had raised over $10,000,000 from public spirited people. These funds had been matched by the State to purchase more than 100,000 acres of coast redwoods. Persons contributing substantial sums to enable the League to fund its land acquisition program could request that memorial groves be set aside. These groves would be accessible by either roads or trails, have a memorial plaque, and benches adjacent to the plaque. By January 1, 1965, there were 93 memorial groves in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, totaling over 5,000 acres, and set aside to honor those who had contributed over two and one-half million dollars "to preserve this area for the enjoyment of the American people for all time." [36]

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004