Armstrong Redwoods Habitat Protection and Restoration Project
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, and its watershed Fife Creek, are in danger of being "loved to death" by the millions of visitors who have been inspired by its magnificence over the last century. The Armstrong Redwoods Habitat Protection and Restoration Project, funded entirely by private donations, has been created to "love it back to life." Years of recreational use have created an unnatural erosion, compaction, and scarification of the forest floor, damaging sensitive plant life. Soil compaction is adversely affecting the ability of shallow-rooted plants, like redwood seedlings, to absorb the nutrients and water they need. Understory plants have been destroyed by visitors that stray off the designated trails. As each plant and tree in the grove becomes weakened or dies, the entire redwood habitat becomes endangered. In order to repair the damage we must plan wisely for the many generations of visitors yet to come.
A demonstration greenhouse has been erected and is used for propagation of our redwood seedlings. It is located near our visitor center and provides excellent educational opportunities. A multipurpose production greenhouse has also been constructed, which is not available for public viewing.
A low-impact, low-level, floating fenceline has been place alongside trails and roadways to delineate appropriate routes through the Grove.
The first native redwood seedlings, grown by our restoration team, were planted in the grove during a historic volunteer day in 2001.
To mitigate the damages of soil compaction, a groundbreaking two year experiment is underway on the Pioneer Trail. Soil compaction destroys healthy soil structure and the vital mycorrhizae fungus; fungi that grows on the roots of trees and plants and encourages the growth of new roots tips and aids the host in water and nutrient uptake. After a baseline study of the soil was conducted, a section of the trail was covered with KORMAT - a green plastic material that looks like an egg carton. This eco-friendly trail surface absorbs impact and pressure from foot traffic while providing a firm, flat trail surface that is disability accessible. The KORMAT is then covered with gorilla hair (recycled, shredded redwood bark) for aesthetic purposes. After two years of use the trail will be retested. Our expectation is that compaction will be significantly reduced, enabling the restoration of healthy soil structure and mycorrhizae fungus through natural processes. Should these results be as positive as we expect, KORMAT will be installed throughout the trail system in Armstrong Grove.
We have begun restoration of the portion of Fife Creek that flows through Armstrong Grove. This project entails the removal of concrete dams that were installed in the stream approximately 35 years ago. These dams were originally installed to control flooding and prevent erosion control. However, just the opposite has occurred; the dams have actually caused erosion. When the flow of water encounters the dam it is forced to expand, undercutting the surrounding banks as it does so. The dams also cause sediment build-up. Sediment that would normally flow out to the ocean is blocked by the dam and accumulates, eventually burying the stream and creating a wide, shallow channel. This change in formation has destroyed the habitat for the once thriving Coho salmon and Steelhead trout populations. The Dam Removal Project will allow the stream to return to its natural deep and narrow shape and reestablish pool habitats and shelter for fish. This action should allow for a return of the salmon and steelhead populations, bring a return of summer water flow and help mitigate flooding.
Our Next Steps
We must be prepared to mitigate the effects of future use in the Grove. Our plans include the following: continuation of our propagation and revegetation; survey of trails and mitigation work to reduce erosion and sedimentation of Fife Creek; continued education of private landowners and the surrounding community to facilitate protection of the entire area and to reduce sedimentation and runoff in the Fife Creek watershed; development of a private funding source for the project through outreach and educational efforts; and enhancement of public outreach through educational materials.
Acknowledgements for Donations and Funding
Projects that have been completed by the Armstrong Grove Habitat Protection and Restoration Project have been made possible by the grants and donations of the following foundations and organizations:
Department of FIsh and Game
Community Foundation Sonoma County
California ReLeaf National Urban Forestry Grant
Fish America Foundation/NOAA Restoration Center
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
California Department of Parks and Recreation