Controversy (and wedding bells) amid the redwoods

For anyone who follows technology, conservation, or celebrities it was hard not to miss the stories about Facebook co-founder, Sean Parker’s, wedding. After all it had it all — the glitz and glamor of a star wedding, a theme straight out of “Game of Thrones”, and of course controversy among California’s beloved redwoods.

First came the accusatory stories completed with tales of wanton destruction of the redwoods. Then the rebuttal from the Internet-guru cum conservation, Mr. Parker. No doubt the truth is in their somewhere. Since I did not attend the wedding there’s little I can say about what actually happened. But I do know Post Creek and I have struggled myself to obtain permits to do work there. Let me back up.

A number of years ago, Save the Redwoods League purchase a parcel of forested land from the Ventana Inn. The League bought it to add the land to the adjacent Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The land is forested and had Post Creek running through a beautiful redwood canyon. Unfortunately as is often the case, the land had problems. In this case, an old road was threatening to fail and dump thousands of cubic feet of sediment directly into the creek. Most pressing was the replacement of an old creek crossing with a modern natural-bottomed culvert that would allow fish passage and prevent the road from failing.

Everyone agreed that the restoration project was a good idea. And that was a good thing as we’d need to get permits from the County (for grading), the Department of Fish and Game (to work in the creek), and the Coastal Commission (as it constituted “development” in the coastal zone.) Mr. Parker raced to get permits under the pressure of a walk down nature’s aisle. We were racing against the onset of winter. If winter hit before we were ready, not only would we lose time, but we’d all have to cross our fingers that the creek crossing would survive another winter.

Despite the fact everyone wanted the project to go ahead, we struggled mightily. Public servants more used to dealing with “housing development” didn’t know how to approach a pure restoration project. I remember visiting with the County with a colleague and having the bureaucrat across the desk roll her eyes and snort, “so you just want to go out there and throw dirt around….” We lacked the all-important “construction drawings.” Construction drawings? We were simply re-contouring an existing road! But we complied and the road was surveyed and the drawing produced –adding time and expense and not changing the outcome one bit.

In the end, we squeaked in under the October 15th deadline and the work was completed. A good job too as a year later the area was ravaged by a massive wildfire. Who knows what damaged would have been wrought if we had no upgraded the road and stream crossing when we had.

So Mr. Parker, I have sympathies for you trying to secure permits under the press of time. It’s just tough, especially if your project is our of the ordinary as both of ours were. I also know the area has seen heavy use for many years and is far from the pristine grove the public might imagine. I trust that the Coastal Commission will see fit to use the funds you have paid to continue the work to restore Post Creek and expand the network of trails so more of the public can come to know and love this place that will always be special to you.  That’s a great contribution to the future.

[I had hoped to find my pictures of the creek restoration — but they appear to be lost in Aperture. When they show-up, I will update this post!]


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