Budget cuts target roads to Tall Trees, Skunk Cabbage roads
This is the last weekend of the season that Redwood Parks visitors can drive to the historic Tall Trees Grove, the redwood stand that inspired the founding of Redwood National Park.
The access roads to Talls Trees Grove and Skunk Cabbage Trail will be closed starting Monday due to a 5 percent budget cut to national parks from the so-called federal sequester. Both roads are in need of repairs that the park cannot afford due to budget cuts.
“We don’t have the staff this summer, due to budget reductions, to bring that road up to speed and then to maintain it,” said Steve Prokop, superintendent of Redwood National and State Parks. He said the Tall Trees road closure is considered temporary.
The 5 percent cut the park was forced to absorb for the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30 amounts to a $441,216 reduction.
Redwood National and State Park officials previously said that the park might not be able to operate both the Crescent City and Hiouchi visitor centers this summer due to cuts, but both facilities will remain open since the Redwood Parks Association “stepped up” to help operate the centers, Prokop said.
He said that the parks were able to keep core interpretation programs, a summer youth employment program and outreach to partners.
Earlier national news reports attributed to anonymous National Park Service officials had said that there was direction to make the cuts more visible and painful to the public, a charge that Prokop denied.
“Speaking for Redwood National and State Parks, we have done just the opposite. We have gone out of our way to lessen the pain as much as possible due to these budget reductions,” Prokop said. “With a lot of creativity and innovation and working with our partners, we’ve been able to keep open the Crescent City and Hiouchi visitor centers and 95 percent of our roads and trails.”
Prokop noted that the Tall Trees Grove access road off of Bald Hills Road in northern Humboldt County is not heavily used, seeing only about 20,000 visitors a year compared to the overall 850,000 who visit RNSP annually.
“We found that closing Tall Trees Road would be the least impact to our visitors,” Prokop said, adding that the road will remain open to hikers and mountain bikers.
The 7.6-mile Skunk Cabbage Section of the Coastal Trail is also in northern Humboldt County. While its southern access road will be closed, it can still be accessed from Davison Road to the north.
The parks recently reopened backcountry camping on Redwood Creek gravel bars between Tall Trees Grove and MacArthur Creek, so the road closure could create a rare mountain bike-friendly backcountry camping adventure.
In 1964, a naturalist from National Geographic Society discovered what was at the time considered to be the largest living thing on the planet: the Libbey Tree (which came to be known as the Tall Tree), measuring 367.8 feet high. The discovery of this tree and other record-holders in the Tall Trees Grove was instrumental in the founding of Redwood National Park. Taller trees have since been found and the top of the Tall Tree fell off at some point, but the grove retained its historical significance.
The Tall Trees Grove can also be accessed via the Redwood Creek Trail.
For Redwood parks information or permits for backcountry camping, call 465-7335.
Howland Hill Rd. closed to traffic for 10 weekdays
The section of Howland Hill Road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park will be closed on weekdays starting Monday through June 14, but the road will remain open on weekdays.
The closure is scheduled for annual maintenance work on the route. Visitors may enter the area on foot, but should use caution near road construction equipment.