BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK, Calif. (KRON) – As California braces for another wildfire season, the hardest-hit areas from last year’s lightning complex fires are still in the early stages of recovering.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park was ravaged by the 2020 CZU Lighting Complex wildfire. 

The vast majority of the park remains closed due to hazardous conditions and an annihilated trail system.

Due to a lack of winter rainfall, embers are still smoldering inside of trees and sparking ignition fires.

Photo by Kevin Painchaud

But there’s new hope for this natural treasure. Governor Gavin Newsom announced his revised 2022 state budget proposal devotes $200 million for rebuilding wildfire-impacted parks statewide, and a huge chunk of the funds will go to Big Basin. State officials estimated that it will take $186 million to rebuild Big Basin, and Newsom agreed to pick up the full tab.

Sara Barth, executive director of Sempervirens Fund land trust, said Newsom’s decision was a delightful surprise.

Photo by Kevin Painchaud

Conservation groups such as the Sempervirens Fund were fearing that state parks would have to rely on private donations to rebound from the lightning complex fires. 

“We knew that repair costs were going to be immense. There was a lot of concern that we would once again see state parks receive inadequate funding,” Barth told KRON4.

Photo by Kevin Painchaud

“But instead, the governor made a very significant investment in the work that needs to be done,” Barth said.

“My expectation is that funding will go to continue some of the cleanup. There’s still a lot of hazardous materials, hazardous trees. Then the funds will go toward the public planning process in which the public gets to weigh in on what the future of Big Basin will be. Eventually I imagine that some of those funds will go to restoring the infrastructure,” Barth said.

Photo by Kevin Painchaud

Rebuilding infrastructure for water and electricity in a remote forest is no small task, she explained. 
Big Basin’s waterfalls, 80 miles of trails, and ancient redwood giants draw visitors from around the world.  At 1,800 years old, some of these trees may predate the Roman Empire, according to state parks officials. 

“When you walk amongst them … you feel like you’re in a cathedral. It’s very humbling and awe-inspiring. At least for me, it puts life’s troubles in perspective,” Barth said.

Photo by Kevin Painchaud

Visiting Big Basin

What is open?

  • Select areas of Rancho del Oso subunit (access via Highway 1):
    • Waddell Beach and parking lot
    • Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center starting May 29
    • Marsh Trail starting May 29
    • Rancho del Oso park road starting May 29
    • Parking lots starting May 29
    • Restrooms starting May 29

What is currently closed?

  • Rancho del Oso Welcome Center
  • Hoover Nature Trail
  • All other areas of Big Basin, including historic core
  • All other trails, including Skyline to the Sea
  • All backcountry areas
Photo by Kevin Painchaud