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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.