Redwood Creek nursery

A Nursery Closes, But Its Legacy Grows On

From Park E-ventures, May 2015

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Tucked onto a small lot near Muir Woods National Monument, the Redwood Creek Native Plant Nursery has been producing healthy native California plants for use in restoration projects for almost 25 years. From humble beginnings, Redwood Creek Nursery became the center of a vibrant volunteer program, and supported several major restoration projects. In 2012 alone, this little nursery grew 19,000 plants for restoration projects at Muir Beach, Dias Ridge, and Muir Woods. As we prepare to say goodbye to this small but well-loved nursery, it seems only appropriate to take a look back to see how far we’ve come.

What would one day become Redwood Creek Nursery started in 1987 as nothing more than two enclosed beds, built out of repurposed old windows and plywood boxes, hidden behind a ranger’s residence at Muir Woods. Soon after, intern Sharon Farrell—under the leadership of Ranger Mia Monroe—added more cold frames and began to get the public involved in removing invasive plants and replanting California native species in the understory of Muir Woods.

Redwood Creek nursery

Solange Russek works at the original cold frames of Muir Woods Nursery behind the ranger’s residence at Muir Woods.

The nursery moved to its current location in 1992, with two small greenhouses to replace the enclosed beds. Later, volunteers and the National Park Service Maintenance Crew helped to construct the larger shadehouse at the site, and the nursery was supported by NPS seasonal staff and interns until the Conservancy took over the program in 1998.

Since then, there have been six nursery managers at Redwood Creek: Heather King (1998-2001), Rachel Van Noord-Peterson (2001-2003), Courtney Johnson-Rowe (2003-2005), Christopher Friedel (2005-2009), Chelsea Dicksion (2009-2014), and Georgia Vasey (2014-2015).

In 2003, when the focus of the projects that the nursery was supporting shifted from Muir Woods to the Banducci/Redwood Creek restoration, the name was changed from Muir Woods Nursery to Redwood Creek Nursery.

Redwood Creek nursery

Two veteran volunteers, Jim Hensler (left) and John Eschelbach (right), help to construct the mist house at Redwood Creek Nursery, c. 1999.

On Saturday, April 11, National Park Service staff, Conservancy staff and volunteers came together for one last day of work and community at Redwood Creek Nursery. There was a lot to be done, and the volunteers jumped in with vigor. The two major projects for the day were deconstruction of the shadehouse, and pot washing—lots of pot washing!

Redwood Creek nursery

Volunteers and nursery staff in the initial stages of shadehouse deconstruction.

Redwood Creek nursery

Volunteer Jim Hensler (in blue) tackles the front door frame of the shadehouse while others wait to carry out debris.

By lunchtime, the shadehouse was almost completely removed, with only one wall left to go.

Redwood Creek nursery

Volunteers stacking wood from the dismantled shadehouse.

While half the volunteers were hard at work on the shadehouse, others were making progress on cleaning the piles of empty pots and racks so that they could be transported and reused at our other nurseries.

Redwood Creek nursery

Volunteers and Conservancy staff manning the leach tube washing table.

Redwood Creek nursery

Left to right: Liz Ponzini, Tanya Baxter, Christopher Friedel, Naomi LeBeau, and Joella Simons-Adkins at the DP-16 washing table. Back left, Kara Mirmelstein brings over more pots to be cleaned.

Redwood Creek nursery

Robert Feist (left), Rik Hansen, and Molly Simonson working at the DP-40 cleaning table.

Work stopped at lunchtime, and after filling their plates from the delicious potluck buffet, everyone adjourned to the shady meeting place under the large buckeye tree. The afternoon was filled with reflection, as Mia Monroe spoke about the vision and dedication needed to transform this nursery from a few enclosed beds behind the ranger station to the flourishing community it became.

Group photo of past, present volunteers at the Redwood Creek nursery

Past and present volunteers at the Redwood Creek Nursery closing celebration.

In addition, many nursery volunteers were recognized for their loyal service through the years—there were at least two volunteers who had been supporting the nursery for over 15 years! In a final gesture, symbolic of the community leaving Redwood Creek Nursery, the circle of stumps under the buckeye were rolled away into the underbrush, to return to a more natural setting, and seeds of wild cucumber, blue wild rye, and red alder were scattered in the clearing.

In the absence of the Redwood Creek Nursery, the Marin Headlands and Tennessee Valley Nurseries will provide the plants needed for restoration projects in the northern part of the park. The site of Redwood Creek Nursery will be returned to the National Park Service to allow for planning and priorities in the Muir Woods area.

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