Meet The San Vicente Redwoods

The 8,500-acre Cemex property north of Santa Cruz has a new name: San Vicente Redwoods.

June 10, 2014—Company names rarely make good landmarks. 3Com Park, Staples Center, FedEx Field—these are sad names, devoid of poetry or history. "Daddy, can we go see a game at Quicken Loans Arena?" No one wants to hear these words spoken aloud.

So here at Hilltromper HQ we're rejoicing over the renaming of Cemex—pardon, CEMEX—Redwoods. Today the four conservation groups that purchased the 8,500-acre property in 2011 announced its new name: "San Vicente Redwoods."

This isn't about CEMEX as a business, by the way. It's about the name "CEMEX," a monolith constructed by dumping a bunch of "cement" into one syllable right next to a pile of "Mexico" in a neighboring syllable and then trying to stir them together, only to find that they've already dried. CEMEX rhymes with only one thing we're aware of, and that's PEMEX, the state oil company of Mexico, formed in much the same fashion, if with one important change in ingredients.

But help has arrived! The new name of the swath of greenery north of Santa Cruz, a keystone of the Great Park being assembled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, contains both poetry and history to spare. Try it out: Saaan Vicente Redwoods. It's a song of a name. The business end of it rhymes with "plenty," "cognoscenti" and "modus vivendi." No wonder it beat out contenders "Davenport Redwoods" and "Coast Dairies Redwoods."

Read Ten Amazing Facts About Redwoods
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Read At Last, Coast Dairies Transferred to BLM

It's also geographically and historically relevant. San Vicente is the name of a creek that flows through the property, and which once formed the southern boundary of the 10,000-acre Rancho San Vicente land grant. Stephen Slade, deputy director of Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, which is developing an access plan for the site, points out that San Vicente Creek is "one of the few streams south of the Golden Gate with a viable salmonid population. It is also a well-known name in the surrounding community."

Besides supporting steelhead trout and, even more remarkably for this region, coho salmon, San Vicente Creek has supplied the town of Davenport with drinking water since 1905, when Coast Dairies saw an opportunity to house workers at the new cement plant and built a little hamlet with the hopeful name of "San Vicente-by-the-Sea." By 1908 people were just calling it Davenport, but that wasn't the worst insult to San Vicente Creek. Its tidal marsh was filled in to support the train trestle and its course redirected through a tunnel in 1906.

Yet the San Vicente watershed has continued about its work. Today the San Vicente Redwoods parcel is home to 90 old-growth redwoods and important mountain lion habitat, even as it supplies water to both Davenport and the city of Santa Cruz. "It nurtures and sustains both people and wildlife, and is a defining feature of the local landscape that we now honor and celebrate with this new name," says Walter Moore, president of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, one of the four organizations—along with Sempervirens Fund, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Save The Redwoods League— that came together in 2011 to buy the property from CEMEX for $30 million.

Reed Holderman, executive director of Sempervirens Fund, notes that the property—heavily logged and quarried for much of the last century—is a huge piece of the 195-square-mile Great Park, currently about two-thirds complete. Light timber harvest will continue on the San Vicente Redwoods with the goal of funding restoration efforts and public access. “The new name signals a new era for this gorgeous and important redwood forest, the largest intact redwood parcel between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean, 13 square miles," Holderman says. “We’ve protected the forest and now we’re helping this critical forest regain its natural strength and beauty.”

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Land Trust will produce a draft of an access plan this summer. Because the San Vicente Redwoods stands adjacent to the 5,600-acre Coast Dairies property, outdoor lovers could well be looking at 14,000 contiguous acres of new playground by next summer.