Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek, CA:

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. played an important role in the establishment of the California State Park System, as outlined by California Forever, a two-part documentary series. Hired by the California State Park Commission,  Olmsted Jr. released a report in December 1928, recommending 125 park sites, ranging from Big Sur to the badlands of Anza-Borrego.

In 2020, wildfires destroyed 86,000 acres on the San Francisco Peninsula, including Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park. The highlight of this 18,000-acre preserve is the 4,300-acre grove of old-growth redwoods—by far the largest remaining continuous stand of Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in existence south of San Francisco. The fires burned through ninety-seven percent of the park, destroying trees, shrubs, undergrowth, wildlife, trails, bridges, and the park’s historic 102-year-old lodge, which had served as a welcome center for thousands of visitors every year.  

In the face of this massive destruction, The Garden Club of America awarded a $10,000 restoration initiative grant to Woodside Atherton Garden Club. Partnering with Save the Redwoods League, the club and five fellow Bay Area GCA clubs will replant natural areas around the welcome center.   The grant funds will support renovation of the Rancho Del Oso Nature and History Center which serves as the only entry to the old growth forest.  Both of these areas will help visitors understand the ecosystem of the old growth forest just before heading into the ancient grove.

Rhododendron Glen, Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA:

In May, the GCA awarded its $30,000 Founders Fund award to  the Seattle Garden Club to support Rhododendron Glen,  a project designed to heal a historic stream and engage all ages in urban water ecology.

Rhododendron Glen is located in the Washington Park Arboretum—an arboretum designed by the Olmsted Brothers.  The Arboretum is a centrally located botanical garden – free to the public —  that draws visitors from across the city, region and the world. The Glen is part of a larger watershed that carries surface water from multiple sources through the Arboretum to Lake Washington and ultimately, Puget Sound. Improvements in the Glen will showcase Seattle’s rich Olmsted heritage and its enduring importance in the twenty-first century.

The Arboretum is committed to returning its entire watershed to a more natural and healthy condition. And this restoration project at Rhododendron Glen will be the pilot for an ambitious, multi-year endeavor. 

The project will focus on the lower reach of a stream that descends through the Glen to a pond bordering Azalea Way, the Arboretum’s iconic and most visited attraction. The stream has deteriorated over time, along with the ravine’s ericaceous plant collection and picturesque ponds.

The project will fulfill several objectives, including:

  • model ecological restoration of a heritage water feature;
  • enhance the horticultural richness of new plantings;
  • improve stream access for people with limited mobility;
  • expand environmental education and experiential learning opportunities for visitors of all ages, ethnicities, and physical abilities.

Proposed improvements will halt silt flow into the pond. Grant funds will also support more extensive water-tolerant plantings, functional and aesthetic improvements in the bottom reach of the stream, and an accessible interpretive loop trail and viewpoint to engage visitors who encounter this magnetic place. By restoring this important waterway, the Arboretum hopes to demonstrate  urban water ecology and show how stream restoration can benefit the most endangered and interdependent species in the Pacific Northwest — orca whales and wild salmon in the Sound.   You can read more here:

Map showing the phases of improvement for the Olmsted Brothers’ Rhododendron Glen in Washington Park Arboretum.

The first GCA Founders Fund award of $700 was presented in 1936 to the Amateur Gardeners Club for an English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, Johns Hopkins Press. Since then, two-hundred seventy-two Founders Fund winners and runners-up have received more than $1.5 million to save thousands of acres of land and innumerable trees, to restore historic landmarks, to establish civic plantings, and to conduct research and educational projects across the country.