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Big Basin Redwoods State Park Begins Limited, Gradual Reopening

DAVENPORT (KPIX) -- A small portion of Big Basin Redwoods State Park reopened to the public Saturday for the first time since the pandemic and the CZU wildfire. The reopening was great news for anyone who has been waiting to reclaim a little bit of this amazing land. Get here and it's a reminder of just how much devastation is caused by the fire and how quickly the land can begin to recover.

"A lot of people hike in this area," said park visitor Beth McKinnon. "You know, you want to be able to go to some of the places that you know and see what they're like now."

This was the day visitors could finally do a little bit of that, at least in this one sliver of Big Basin.

"Rancho del Oso is the coastal sector or coastal section of Big Basin Redwoods State Park," explained California State Parks interpreter Richard Fletcher.

"Often, they are thought of as almost two different parks entirely because we're more of a coastal environment as opposed to the iconic redwoods that you normally think of."

Even in this small, reopened portion of the park, many trails remain closed because of dangerous conditions, namely damaged trees. But it's enough access to get a first-hand look at what the fire did to this landscape as it marched toward the Pacific.

"That's one reason we're happy to reopen," Fletcher said. "You can come and kind of be introduced to that magnitude. If you think about how far away the main portion of Big Basin is -- and you can already see the fire scars here -- it can help you understand just the size of the fire."

"It was huge," McKinnon said. "What, 86,500 acres in Santa Cruz County alone? That's a hell of a lot of acres."

In many places here, the fire is still simmering underground. There continue to be occasional flare-ups. But, in some spots, evidence of the fire is already tucked away behind everything that has regrown since.

"If you didn't look back at the giant hills and you just looked at, like, this marsh trail, there would be, like, three things that would make you think there was a fire," volunteer Jack Humphries said.

"It's amazing how high it already is," McKinnon says of the regrowth. "It's high, the undergrowth is here. The flowers are blooming. Grasses are growing. Some of the leaves are coming back on the trees that look dead. It's amazing."

Park visiting hours are currently limited to Saturday and Sunday.

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