Nearly a year and a half after the Redwood Parks Conservancy began a fundraiser to protect the Grove of Titans, a project that includes installing a 1,300-foot elevated trail system around trees in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is underway and is projected to be finished by July 2021.

However, the Redwood Parks Conservancy, Save the Redwoods League, California State Parks and the National Park Service must raise $500,000 by the end of 2018 to take advantage of a dollar-for-dollar challenge grant being offered to support the project’s first phase, according to a joint press release.

The estimated cost for the entire project is $3.5 million, according to the press release.

The Grove of Titans includes 10 of the world’s largest trees and lies within Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. They are more than 23 feet in diameter and contain more than 35,000 cubic feet of wood. Visitors to the park have created their own network of trails off the Mill Creek Trail to access the Grove of Titans, compressing the trees’ root systems and destroying surrounding vegetation, Brett Silver, superintendent of California State Parks’ Redwood Coast Sector told the Triplicate in March 2017.

To counter the damage, the Redwood Parks Conservancy — Redwood National and State Parks’ nonprofit partner — embarked on an effort to raise $1 million for an elevated trail system into the grove. However, in a July 3, 2018 article, Joanna DiTomasso, the conservancy’s development director, said the organization had raised $50,000 for the elevated trail system so far.

Now, the Redwood Parks Conservancy is partnering with the Save the Redwoods League, California State Parks and National Park Service to take advantage of a challenge grant that would raise $500,000 for the project. The grant comes from artist Josie Merck, whose father, George W. Merck, was a Save the Redwoods League councilor from 1953 to 1984. According to the two nonprofits, California State Parks and National Park Service, Josie Merck has pledged to match all contributions made by Dec. 31, 2018, up to $500,000.

According to the Save the Redwoods League, the planning, assessment and compliance phase of the project is currently underway and is expected to be finished in fall 2019. This phase of the project includes a public access study of Howland Hill Road. The planned re-routing of the Mill Creek Trail and construction of the raised trail system will also undergo review during this phase of the project.

The second phase of the project is expected to begin September 2019 and includes building the elevated walkway, removing unauthorized social trails and restoration of the Grove of Titans. According to the press release, ADA accessible parking, restrooms and other amenities would also be installed during this phase of the project. Interpretive material providing visitors with information on the grove’s history and ecosystem would also be installed during this phase.

During the construction phase of the project, the Mill Creek Trail will be closed from Howland Hill Road to the Smith River. The new trail system is projected to reopen July 2021.

The Grove of Titans was identified in 1998. Following unofficial publication of its location, visitation increased dramatically over 20 years.

Today, 13,000 cars per month use Howland Hill Road during the summer, often resulting in gridlock, according to the press release.

For more information and to donate, visit SavetheRedwoods.org/Titans or GroveofTitans.org. Donations can also be made by calling Save the Redwoods League at 415-820-5800 or the Redwood Parks Conservancy at 707-465-7329.

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