California’s oldest state park and home to some of the most celebrated ancient coast redwood trees appears to be no more, at least the "historic core" and well-known facilities in the park.
"We are devastated to report that Big Basin State Park, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone," Sempervirens Fund, an organization dedicated to redwoods protection, wrote in a post to their website Thursday afternoon.
The CZU Lightning Complex, a combination of several fires burning over the last several days in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, has "damaged the park’s headquarters, historic core and campgrounds," according to a news release from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Big Basin was California’s very first state park, acquired by the state in 1902.
Some reports show many of the giant redwoods were touched by the flames, but still standing. "Nearly all Big Basin’s iconic redwood trees were scorched, and while many escaped the blaze with foliage intact, dozens near the park center had been torched up to the crown and their tops had burned off or broken," The Mercury News wrote Thursday.
According to the New York Times, conditions at Big Basin remain too dangerous for anyone to assess damage to the trees.
So, we wait.
"We feel like we have lost an old friend," the Fund's emotional letter explained. "We imagine that many of you will feel the same way. For millions of people, Big Basin is the place where they first experienced the majesty of the redwoods - where they were humbled and inspired standing amidst a grove of towering trees that have stood resolute for thousands of years. Those memories will live on."
The group’s ties to the park are deep.
Sempervirens Fund was born in the late 1800s when concerned residents stepped in to stop logging activity over 300 square miles of ancient redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That land eventually became Big Basin State Park.
They're conceding this is a transformative moment for redwood preservation in California.
"This is a turning point for the coast redwoods, mountain habitats, the communities that live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the people that enjoy them, and for our own organization. The lands we have known so well - and walked, saved, and sweated over with many of you - are being transformed."
As of late Thursday, the CZU Lightning Fire has burned over 48,000 acres and is 0% contained.