Bear Creek Redwood Preserve to open in Los Gatos

LOS GATOS, Calif. (KGO) -- We often think of Muir Woods when we think of redwood forests. But there's one in the South Bay that's over twice as large, and it's undergoing a transformation as it prepares to open to the public next year. The Bear Creek Redwood Preserve has been 20 years in the making.

The 1,432 acre site has a long history. It has been a logging operation, home to wealthy descendants of the gold rush, and even the site of a Jesuit theology school. It's being restored to its natural state so it can be enjoyed by hikers and equestrians.

A symbolic groundbreaking event Tuesday kicked off what will be a multi-phase project by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which acquired the land in 1999 for $25 million. However, there was never money to do the restoration until passage of a bond measure four years ago. It's already home to bats, turtles, dragonflies and song birds.

A top priority will be removing non-native and invasive plants due to the preserve's proximity to Lexington Reservoir, a major storage facility for the South Bay's drinking water. Creeks in the preserve feed into the reservoir.

"By bringing in natives, you're improving the quality of the riparian habitat, which then helps to improve the quality of the water itself within the creekways," said Ana Ruiz, acting general manager of the Open Space District.

Remnants of five structures reflect the past when Dr. Harry Tevis built a huge mansion on the property after the 1906 earthquake. It later became Alma College.

"We are keeping the chapel, which was constructed in 1909 as Tevis's library and then converted to a chapel by the Jesuits, so we'll keep that and mothball it, and then we'll also keep the older of the two libraries," said Lisa Bankosh, preserve plan project manager.

The land is also a habitat for mountain lions.

The complete restoration of Bear Creek Redwoods will take about 20 years. The first phase will be open in about a year.
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