Gov. Gavin Newsom got a firsthand look Tuesday at the devastation in California's oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which was largely destroyed by the CZU Lighting Complex fires.
During the visit, officials revealed the park, situated in the gorgeous Santa Cruz Mountains and loved by many, will remain closed for at least a year out of safety concerns for visitors. It will be "reimagined" for future generations, as the intense flames left their indelible mark on the grounds.
The governor walked carefully along the cinder-covered trails inside the scorched, blackened remains of park. Those tagging along, including KCBS Radio's Doug Sovern, had to keep an eye out for fallen redwood limbs and ash pits, hidden and still full of hot embers.
"It is emotional and if this is not a gut punch, then you’re not fully conscious as a human being," Gov. Newsom said after standing inside the blackened interior of a 300-foot tall ancient coastal redwood tree. "(It’s) another reminder of how important it is to be stewards and how important it is to have a sustainable mindset."
It will take more than 12 months for this park to reopen to the public in some form.
To get there, public and private dollars, plus federal support, will very likely be needed.
"You never lose those memories as a child," the governor added, talking about memories he and others have of Big Basin. "(I'm) talking about the architecture of the old cabins, the old bear sign. You remember the sounds, the smells. You remember the canopies...they're precious and they're magical."
"We don’t need to ask anymore," the governor added. "The answer seems to be ‘Yes’ before we even ask the question."
The park’s entire infrastructure, including its "historic core," campgrounds, bathrooms and other facilities, were wiped out by the intense fire. It's thought many of Big Basin's oldest trees will survive, headlined by some of its most famous redwoods.
With 900 reported fires around the state, almost 1.5 million acres is estimated to have burned over the last two weeks.