Redwood National and State Parks are easy on environment
The "Hey Ranger" column written by employees of the Redwood National and State Parks is published monthly. Today's column is by Keith Bensen, fish and wildlife biologist and Green Committee chairman for the parks.
Redwood National and State Parks are world famous for being home to the largest remaining area of lush, verdant, old-growth redwood forest.
If you were to choose colors best describing the parks' landscape, green would definitely top the list.
But that isn't the only way that the parks are green. Parks staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors have all been working hard over the past decade to make the operation of the parks environmentally sustainable or "green."
Both the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the
National Park Service have numerous recent policies mandating green park
operations. Your redwood parks have taken this to heart and have
applied the sustainable management concept to a wide variety of areas.
Everything that goes on in the parks nowadays has had some sort of
review about whether it can be bought locally, accomplished using
non-toxic products, use less energy or an alternative energy source,
operate more efficiently, reduce waste, be reused for something else, or
An added advantage of switching to a green operation is that
sustainable options most often result in significant cost savings - an
important benefit everyone appreciates!
For example, the new North Operations Center near Crescent City
consolidates both state and national park maintenance work groups into
one highly sustainable building. The center has a large photovoltaic
array that generates up to a third of the building's power, extensive
sky lighting to reduce the use of electric lights during the day,
high-efficiency heating, water and sewer systems, and locally-sourced,
non-toxic, long-lasting construction materials.
Formerly, maintenance groups were scattered across the parks in
dozens of older, highly energy inefficient buildings that cost
significantly more to operate and maintain, and necessitated more
driving time to reach.
The new center facilitates efficient equipment sharing and teamwork
for greater project efficiency by having all maintenance staff in one
location. Even removing the former maintenance work sites was
accomplished using the sustainable management method.
The former National Park Service maintenance yard at Requa was in a
former Cold War-era Air Force radar base located on a hill that was very
geologically unstable, necessitating complete dismantling of the
failing buildings. That deconstruction project was accomplished in
cooperation with the Yurok Tribe and resulted in an amazing 85 percent
of the material being recycled or reused. Over 9,000 tons of waste was
diverted from area landfills.
Another very productive sustainable operations partnership is with
the Shatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University. The
Schatz lab is renowned for its practical research of alternative and
efficient energy systems.
The cooperative program provides real world work experience for
graduate environmental engineering students by involving them in park
energy projects. Shatz professors and graduate students designed, for
free, the photovoltaic system that now partially powers the parks'
headquarters in Crescent City and conducted an energy efficiency survey
of the building resulting in significant operational cost savings and
reduced power usage.
Other projects the graduate students have taken on include
photovoltaic systems at the Wolf Creek Education Center and Gold Bluffs
Beach park residence and campground, a solar hot water system at the
Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick, and a cutting-edge solar hydrogen fuel
cell power system at the School House Peak fire lookout.
Because of the over 50-mile-long shape of the parks, moving people
and equipment around is the second largest source, behind electricity
use, of Redwood's air pollution and energy usage, making up a quarter of
the parks' carbon footprint. Making the parks' vehicle and equipment
fleet more efficient and less polluting is being tackled in a variety of
The fleet has been shrunk by eight vehicles this year through careful
work planning and vehicle sharing, resulting in thousands of gallons of
fuel savings and over 20 tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
All diesel equipment now runs on 80 percent locally sourced
biodiesel. Six older vehicles have been replaced with new
highly-efficient hybrid vehicles.
Small, all electric utility vehicles are now used in the Jedediah
Smith, Mill Creek and Elk Prairie campgrounds by staff and volunteers.
They use a fraction of the energy (and cost) of the gasoline-powered
pickups formerly used, are very cheap to maintain, and are really quiet -
a side benefit park visitors enjoy.
This summer, interpretive rangers for the first time will be getting
around the campgrounds on bicycles, the greenest transportation of all.
Finally, the parks have installed a high-definition video conferencing
system at the major offices in Crescent City, Orick and Eureka, greatly
reducing the need for staff to drive hundreds of miles for meetings.
Bear-proof recycling containers have been placed at all visitor use
areas throughout the parks. Thousands of tons of solid waste have been
diverted from landfills through visitor use of these receptacles.
And, an innovative program was started two years ago that allows
visitors to vent the remaining propane from their camp stove and lantern
fuel bottles so that the steel canisters can be recycled, turning
thousands of pounds of high grade steel back into useful items instead
of being wasted.
Park offices use nothing but recycled paper and non-toxic cleaning
supplies and utilize a local non-profit group to collect all recyclable
materials. The push for sustainable purchasing even goes so far as to
build in green components to as many contracts as possible.
All of these efforts and more have led to Redwood National and State
Parks being designated Climate Friendly andndash; Cool Parks, the only joint
recognition by the National Park Service and California Department of
Parks and Recreation.
The parks also recently received the 2011 Environmental Achievement
Award from the Department of the Interior because of the many green
programs we have established.
But, most importantly, we staff members hope that all our visitors
can use some of the same ideas to make their own work places and homes
more sustainable, and probably less costly.
For ideas, visit the parks' website for links to the Climate Friendly
Parks "Do Your Part!" or Cool Parks "You Can Help!" pages. Better yet,
when visiting your parks, ask any park staff or volunteer about some
green ideas, examples will be all around you!
For more information on Redwood National and State Parks' green
programs, go to: