200 Volunteers, 20 Chainsaws & 5 Chippers Uncover Henderson Open Space

As sunlight washed over Redding’s first day of October, more than 200 volunteers, 20 chainsaws and five industrial chippers converged upon a jungle-like parcel of land previously “hidden” in the city’s core. Their mission: uncover and correct a half-century of overgrowth and neglect during the 6th Annual Community Creek Clean-up.

The result: Henderson Open Space.

Where is this Henderson Open Space place, you might ask? It’s on Henderson Road, directly in the center of Redding, immediately south of the Cypress Avenue Bridge, on the east side of the River, behind Hartnell Raley’s and extending downstream a quarter of a mile.  To get there, take either a right or a left turn on East Parkview from the Hartnell signal light.  There is plenty of parking, no matter which entrance – north or south – is taken.

Please accept this brief summary from an awed spectator  (and participant in Section Four) who just spent another morning in the magnificent Henderson Open Space.

Old and young picked trash, battlled Himalayan blackberry and grape vine towers to expose corridor views of mallards and open river seen for the first time in more than 50 years. display of incredible work on behalf of a better Redding and an improved local environment.

Henderson Open Space is without urban duplication anywhere near Redding. Even the much larger CDFG Special Management Area in Anderson does not have the history, ease of access, views and variety in terms of flora and relief.

Volunteers collected and disposed of more than 50 cubic yards of litter, while the wood chippers worked nonstop for four hours.

Richard Murphy’s trail, directly to the “Brannon Drape” in Section One, was both a surprise and a needed amenity as it will allow further treatment of Himalayan blackberry which was previously inaccessible.

There was a significant and heavy pile of wire, cable and other debris at the entrance to Murphy’s Cutoff. This needs to be weighed before final totals are tabulated. The southwest corner of Section One still has minor work to open the small pond to viewing there. However, Sunrise Club’s Jeff Haynes and his professional crew did more than requested immediately nearby. Their work in the ‘Area of Critical Concern’ opened the historic East Abutment of the Free Bridge to full view and access as well as several dozen yards of Sacramento River bank.

Toby Preston and Dave Gerard reached lovely and previously hidden “Wood Duck Slough” from opposite sides in Section Two. The east entrance to this corridor has public parking on Henderson Road, but was not used often because the entrance into the woods was formerly intimidatingly small. They made war against invasive black locust so intense that immense piles of brush remain on both sides of the slough as mute testimony to their struggles.

Section Three achieved full forty foot width from the East Fence Border to the River. The mighty California Conservation Corps achieved more than expected from even these hardened veterans. Interestingly, their excellent corridor begins in the Beeman Meadow at an unknown and buried break in the fence which allows passage. Also, in Section Three, Simpson student understanding of the importance of destroying common poke weed was seen everywhere.

Section Four is where Ichabod Crane’s Headless Horseman would be if alive today. Few knew what it held; fewer actually dared venture there until yesterday. Gene Rother and his backhoe made a new mountain bike trail on Friday which has already been used. He pulled down three dangerous huge hanging snags and moved four large log resting benches into place near the river.

Bob Maurer personally rented a chipper so this vast overgrown area would have two rented chippers. With his son, Adrian, a trail was carved from the East Fence to “Wood Duck Slough”.

Stuart Zanni with help from unknown lady volunteers created the best new view of the Sacramento River at “Great Blue Heron lookout”. This vantage from the East Road looks south at the end of the project very near the power plant ruin. This terrific view was previously not available, even to those who knew it was there. Jay and Joan Farquhar, with help from Mission Regulars, made the most wood chips in the project. This road shoulder lining covers the ground along the East and West roads in an almost continuous fashion throughout Section Four. There are secret places, like Bert Meyer’s “Blackberry Alley” from the West Road, which will take people fishing to places not reachable, even viewable, until Saturday.

Large piles of material remain to be burned this winter in Section Four and Section Two. Twenty eight shopping carts were recovered. Two illegal campers were observed trying to recapture their former holdings but are unable to escape detection now.

By the way, you now can see the “Brannon Drape” – a colossal grape vine structure, from the north entrance and the Cypress Avenue Bridge.  Soon, it will turn color and the unwary will think they having trouble with their eyes.  By most accounts there are only two of these this size between here and Sacramento.The Henderson Open Space “secret” needs to become common knowledge and quickly.  It should be used and admired by hundreds every day, just as are the north and south Sacramento River Trails which, interestingly, were also unknown and unused until safe access was provided.  To have such ancient riparian beauty in an urban setting go unused is both a shame and a great insult to the environment.

Redding Rotary members were field leaders in three of the four sections, responsible for general oversight, administration and much of the actual work.

If people are dubious about entry, they should not be.  If they want quiet solitude, easy walking on natural surface, wild beauty, history both natural and cultural, dogs off leash, water birds everywhere, all in the middle of an urban core; they will find this location has it all and more.   No other place else known comes close.

Those there Saturday owe it to themselves to return often as autumn and winter arrive. Thanks again to everyone who came and improved this remarkable acreage which has been needy for far too long.

Best of all, besides the natural beauty which is everywhere, were the presence the day following the clean-up of multiple mountain bike tire imprints on top of Saturday’s five chipper tracks. Also, there were four cars parked this morning in front of the formerly abandoned north gate.

Behold: Henderson Open Space.

If you build it, they will come.

Photos courtesy of Ed Tam.

The day’s volunteer base included private citizens, business owners, Rotarians, students, and representatives of thRedding Police Department, City of Redding, Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, the California Conservation Corps, Simpson University and the Good Rescue News Mission.

Randy Smith is a retired physician who’s dedicated countless volunteer hours as a member of the City of Redding Planning Commission, Redding Rotary Club of the Redding Stream Team and untold other community projects.

Randall R. Smith
Randy Smith is a retired physician, morphed into a full-time professional volunteer. He is a former member of the Redding Planning Commission and Cal-Tip Advisory Board. He is an active member and the founder of the Allied Stream Team of Rotary Club of Redding. He lives in Redding with his wife, Judy.
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24 Responses

  1. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Dear Doni,

    Your readers will not know how sick you have been, how hard you worked to get this story edited and delivered to them. I am so grateful. Bert Meyer will forgive my error in typing the name of a famous Michigan lake for his first name.

    It is vital citizens seize the opportunity gifted to them by Nature, City Council vision and recent hard work. No where is "if you don't use it, you will lose it" more meaningful than Henderson Open Space.

    Thank you very much!


    • Randy, shucks, you make me blush. I'm feeling much better now, thank you.

      I appreciate you for not just participating in this project, but telling the story, and sharing Ed Tam's photos with anewscafe.com readers.

      Our city is indebted to you and the hundreds of volunteers and organizations who labored to clean up and uncover first-time public access to this area of stunning natural beauty.

      Must go now and do a little editing on Mr. Meyer's first name. 🙂

  2. Avatar Karen McGrath says:

    Randy – A great hurrah to you and all the other volunteers, civic organizations, and public agencies that worked so unbelievably hard to "re-acquire" such a significant asset to our open space system in Redding!! Let's get out there and use it.

  3. Avatar adrienne jacoby says:

    A HUUUUGE HURRAH!!! Yes another coin in the natural wealth that is Redding.

    Thank you to each and every volunteer for each and every hour.

  4. Avatar Scott Lyon says:

    Thanks, Creeky!! Another gem along the river opened up for all to enjoy. What's known re the history of that area? The bridge abutments are there of course — your article mentions power plant ruins, too. I think I remember there being some sort of small mill near there back when I was a kidlet — any other info?

    Thanks again.

  5. Avatar Missy McArthur says:

    Great job by everyone! I agree: let's use this open space RIGHT AWAY with friends and dogs to be sure it stays reclaimed for all to use.

    Missy McArthur

    PS Remind me NOT to wear a red hat with a purple shirt again! (of course, I WAS working!)

  6. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Hi Scott,

    Besides the once huge Henderson Ranch and its neighbor to the north which ran from the River to almost the present Municipal Airport and the Free Bridge dating from the 1880s, Henderson Open Space (HOS) contains other post P. B. Reading significant history. American Transit, Inc. operated on the site until acquired by J. F. Shea. The gravel for making concrete which built I-5 was extracted from HOS. Current residents remember going to the extant sorting bins to buy sand or graded gravels. This activity persisted well into the 1960s. The power generator at the south end remains somewhat a brooding mystery as its huge edifice rises silently from the forest floor. It was an early electric plant possibly predating PG&E, certainly R. E. U., with a giant 12 foot iron wheel mounted horizontally. Sacramento River water was taken via concrete barriers at the other end of the property and "Wood Duck Slough" is the present day reminder of this canal. The wheel is gone now, but the superstructure is very much present. Someone will know more. Lastly of importance was the significantly large and successful Thatcher Lumber Mill which burned completely in a huge fire during the late 1960s. Fencing and railroad tie posts dot the property and I wish they could talk as well as several more than century old trees.

    Visitors need to enjoy the natural history as well. The ancient oaks speak to the high water zone and the monster cottonwoods show a more proximate location to the old River channel. Certainly, there are many people more familiar with this wonderful place than a recent drop in from Michigan who came in 1974 and will never leave alive.

    • lol, OK, of course you'd know! Really, I think we need a column called Ask Randy. Thanks for the thorough answer.

      (Readers, can anyone else shed some light on the above-mentioned mystery generator?)

      • Avatar Chris Solberg says:

        Ill ask Randy…

        Do you ever consider what happens to the dozens and dozens of Redding's homeless when you destroy their homeless shelters and encampments ?

        Did you and the Henderson Open Space folks form groups and search the brush for homeless to turn in to the Police as your e-mail described last year ??

        How can you folks destroy homeless camps and possessions on Saturday then worship a homeless man on Sunday ???

        • Avatar Timothy Dale Edwards says:

          To read these people congratulating themselves on their attacks on their homeless neighbors so they can ride their mountain bikes where others desperately sought.refuge from persecution…makes my blood boil.

          • Avatar Scott Lyon says:

            Tim and Chris —

            Your energy and passion is admirable but misplaced. Perhaps your efforts would better suit the homeless population if you worked for or helped expand The Mission or similar groups that provide solutions rather than demanding open space be mandated for transient/homeless populations.

            Just a thought.

  7. Avatar Jennifer says:

    This is a proud moment for this one-time Redding resident who calls Marin home now. Partly because the area's open space will be a playground for my boys and hopefully their children after them. Partly because I have always believed in the great people of Redding who work hard to make their community one of the finest. And partly because seeing my dad find such richness in his "career" after his first calling is rewarding beyond description. Thank you Stream Team. Gratefully, Creeky's Daughter

  8. Avatar Kathryn Frost says:

    Randy, beautiful job you all did. As I read, I only wish I had been there to help. Thanks for making Redding more beautiful, bringing out its best features. I can't wait to take the kids! Thank you also for your words, bringing the brambles and their hidden treasures to our attention. As a proud daughter and good friend mentioned above, Randy, it's lovely to see the depth of your many talents.



  9. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    Time to take a stand against this lack of compassion…
    Occupy Redding

  10. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    I am aware that much of the view on this topic has to do with perspective. My daughter was involved in such a "Clean up". Her perspective was published on this site. https://anewscafe.com/2009/09/19/river-clean-up-hi

    I would love to see the enthusiasm for cleaning up this public land show up to provide a safe place for the people that have been displaced. And I would remind everyone that what some see as trash, others cling to as a fond memory or as all they have to keep them warm.

  11. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    This debate is old and has been covered here and elsewhere. There will be no change in opinion from these words. However, there are dedicated newcomers who might wonder why no opposing view was made. Illegal camping destroys common property. Vicious and snarling attack dogs do not belong on public parkland. At least six mature native trees were hacked to death by ax for no use this summer by thoughtless campers. Piles of human waste so near drinking water for thousands is not only criminal it is wanton disregard for others. Fires from campers have despoiled large parts of North Market on both sides of Old 99. Henderson Open Space has had several summer fires in recent years. Fortunately, they were extinguished before homes and property near by were damaged. Disaster in the middle of Redding is only a matter of time unless change comes soon.

    Nothing two years ago or Saturday or in the meantime was taken from abandoned ground without at least two weeks written notice in conformity with City Ordinance. 28 stolen shopping carts valued in excess of $100 each were recovered. 4.62 TONS of human caused litter were removed. Until Saturday, the law obeying public rarely came to Henderson Open Space.

    My hope remains that the public will retake and hold this precious public place from those who seek to destroy rather than build, who choose to hide rather than participate, who seek a selfish liberty rather than be responsible. As a final BTW, I spent over thirty years caring for the unfortunate. To accuse me and others of being insensitive is a wicked misrepresentation of the truth. Ask campers why they are there and the reply is always the same: "I am here because I am free, no rules, no restrictions, no one telling me what to do." That refrain is pretty close to anarchy and hopefully John Locke has convinced most of us to remain civilized.

  12. Avatar KarenC says:

    Did the protesters "get" what Randall Smith wrote? He is spot on. The homeless need to be in shelters for their own protection, warm food and medical care, if they need it. It is not safe for them to be setting up camp where no camping is allowed. Thank you to all the volunteers who cleared this beautiful area.

  13. Avatar Vickie says:

    With 200 churches in the Redding area, why aren't the homeless being cared for? Oh, must be fear and loathing……

  14. OMG, a friend and I spent the morning walking the grounds of the newly cleared Henderson Open Space. It's magnificient! I felt like I was in the land that time forgot. The trails seemed to wind on forever, and the views of the river and trees and nature were just spectacular.
    This made me appreciate even more the magnitude of work by so many last weekend. We couldn't fathom what kind of a work plan must have been in place to coordinate such a massive project. Did you have maps? Overhead views? How did you even know what was behind all that brush, or where to place paths? (For those who've not been there, you'll see what I mean when you visit.) I literally wondered how the workers could have seen the trees and potential roads for the vines, shrubs, trash and trees.
    It feels so strangely remote, but then you can see houses across the river and hear traffic sounds of nearby Cypress Avenue.
    I've lived here all my life and always viewed that area as sort of an unwelcoming wall of dark green tangle and garbage.
    Thank you to everyone who toiled to expose this natural wonder to the public. I will be back.

  15. Avatar Sarah says:

    Thank you to all who worked on this project. I've lived in Redding for over 30 years, and never knew what great potential this spot of land had. Thank you News Cafe for spreading the word. I took my son here this morning & enjoyed the easy walk to the river.

  16. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Yes, the City provided an aerial view of the property taken during the recent Cypress Avenue Bridge construction. Yes, the picture was marked upon, divided into four sections and assigned according to degree of difficulty. Each section had a commander who understood the mission, both local and global. Blue mylar ribbon was placed at intervals to mark the length and width of the four crossing corridors which intersect the parallel East and West Roads. Red ribbon indicated non native plants and deadfalls to be removed. Orange and black tape marked the species to be particularly protected. This battle plan was approved upon a site inspection by an environmental officer of the California Department of Fish and Game and a City of Redding departmental director. These volunteer efforts which arose from a litter abatement idea of then Mayor Ken Murray are supported by the California Coastal Commission, California Conservation Corps, Shasta Mosquito and Vector Control District, Redding City Council, Henderson Neighborhood Association as well as an army of local citizens led by Rotary Club of Redding.

    Residents and visitors using this property for a quiet stroll, exercise, mountain bike ride, nature walk, enjoyment in the very middle of town are the most valuable kind of return given to the land, those who had the vision to make this place public and the people who worked so hard for a better Redding. Thank you for covering this story and for making a visit to lovely, magical Henderson Open Space.

  17. Avatar Maggie says:

    I am at a loss for words to thank all who participated in the selfless dedication to

    making the Henderson space safe, beautiful, and available to all. The work plan

    alone was brilliant in making sure all aspects of the effort were studied prior to the

    actual work that followed to make it successful in a timely manner. Once again I

    was not surprised to see Randy Smith was envolved in another positive project.

  18. Avatar Bob Grosch says:

    I am almost universally in favor of improving opportunities for outdoor recreation, especially opportunities for walking, hiking, and biking within our urban environment.

    However, when we displace the homeless I pause. Could we not take them into our plans, and mitigate their plight? Would it not be better to replace the lost opportunity for their own safe camping with provision for some other location? I don't want to be bumping into the homeless when I'm walking or jogging, but I also don't want to do so when I realize I've displaced some of our neediest citizens.

  19. Avatar KarenC says:

    Some folks just can't understand the words. "camping is illegal within the City of Redding". There are so many reasons for this. Randall Smith said it plain and clear. Please read what he had to say. Maybe you will finally figure it out.