When word got out on social media about the once-secret off-trail location of the Grove of Titans in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, visitors flocked to the grove, cutting a complex web of unplanned trails through the area.
The increased foot traffic destroyed plants and damaged the trees’ shallow root systems, according to Save the Redwoods League.
People hiking through the sensitive ecosystem also left behind waste and pushed eroded soil and litter into the streams, impacting coho and steelhead spawning habitat, authorities said.
Due to the damage, the Grove of Titans was closed so crews can build a new elevated walkway to limit the harm from visitors and create ecologically sensitive public access.
Now, park visitors for the first time will have official, low-impact access to the famed grove to see the world famous towering trees.
“The Grove of Titans is a premier example of an extraordinary old-growth redwood forest that was experiencing significant damage from visitors walking ‘off trail’ to access this area,” said Erin Gates of California State Parks. “This project is really a story about legacy: being mindful of the role we all play in helping to keep our parks thriving. Through powerful partnerships, we have been able to create an opportunity for visitors to experience the beauty and awe of this grove in a way that also helps protect this sensitive and delicate habitat into the future.”
Grove of Titans is within Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation ancestral territories and is internationally recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it protects a significant population of coast redwoods, the world’s tallest living things.
The new boardwalk through the Grove of Titans is accessible from the newly realigned Mill Creek Trail, which is part of Redwood National and State Parks in Del Norte County.
The elevated boardwalk features interpretive signage and exhibits with redwood forest illustrations and features to educate visitors about the habitat and safe trail use.
It also highlights the Indigenous history of the area and present-day relationships that Tolowa people have with the lands.
It took crews more than 23,000 hours to realign the three-mile Mill Creek Trail and build the new elevated walkway. They had to hand-carry nearly 128 tons of construction materials and tools to the site to minimize the impact on the sensitive habitat, according to Save the Redwoods League.
Crews removed the old trails created by visitors and restored damaged areas by replanting ferns and other plants.
“The Grove of Titans boardwalk is bound to become one of the signature trails within Redwood National and State Parks”, said Steve Mietz of National Park Service. “The unique design of the walkway provides an aesthetically pleasing, intimate connection between visitors and redwoods while protecting the giant redwoods of what is now known as the Grove of Titans.”