American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Sequoia Grove - The restoration of Giant Forest sequoia grove is a national model for resource protection and reversing the damage done to a unique ecosystem. (Photo: National Park Service)

All roads and buildings shown in red have been removed from the Giant Forest. Controlled burns and temporary irrigation were used to restore the forest. (Photo: National Park Service)

Sequoia trees were fenced during demolition to keep construction equipment away. Cabins were lifted to parking areas for demolition following hazmat and glass removal. Non-recyclable wood was ground to reduce hauling volume and taken to the valley for reuse. (Photo: National Park Service)

Before and after photos of restoration areas. The restoration efforts involved restoring natural grade and soil composition, alleviating compaction, replanting with native species, temporary irrigation, erosion control, and prescribed burning to aid forest regeneration. (Photo: National Park Service)

Before and after photos of restoration areas. The restoration efforts involved restoring natural grade and soil composition, alleviating compaction, replanting with native species, temporary irrigation, erosion control, and prescribed burning to aid forest regeneration. (Photo: National Park Service)

Before and after photos of restoration areas. The restoration efforts involved restoring natural grade and soil composition, alleviating compaction, replanting with native species, temporary irrigation, erosion control, and prescribed burning to aid forest regeneration. (Photo: National Park Service)

Giant Forest Museum Before and After. The museum is the interpretive center for the park and Giant Forest. Meadow in front of the museum is quickly regenerating after the pavement and compaction from vehicles was eliminated. (Photo: National Park Service)

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The Restoration of Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, California
National Park Service, Lakewood, Colorado
client: Sequoia National Park

"This shows true leadership, sustained vision, and solid commitment. It's done with great subtlety. They should be applauded for sticking with it for so many years. "

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

This unprecedented restoration effort has set precedence within the National Park System for removing facilities from environmentally sensitive areas. This twenty-year project required comprehensive planning, careful analysis, environmentally responsible solutions, and public support. 282 buildings and more than 1 million square feet of asphalt were removed from the Giant Forest. This undertaking included restoring natural conditions to the grove, relocating visitor services, and providing a meaningful visitor experience.

Project Narrative

Awe-inspiring giant sequoia trees are among the largest living things on earth, but the opportunity to experience them is rare. Only 75 groves exist and only along the southern Sierra’s western slope. The Giant Forest Grove, one of the largest, was saved by the establishment of Sequoia National Park in 1890. However, the National Park status did not fully protect the big trees. The road that brought visitors to Giant Forest also brought camping, cabins, commercial development, and congestion, which damaged the shallow-rooted sequoias. An early park superintendent, Colonel John Roberts White, recognized these problems over 70 years ago and vigorously toiled to protect the natural resources. While largely unsuccessful in clearing structures from Giant Forest, he did prevent additional development and set the stage for the eventual restoration of Giant Forest. “If we do not plan carefully and transfer the major part of the present activity away from the heart of the Giant Forest, the beauties of that area – already tarnished – will be further impaired”. Colonel John Roberts White, 1930

The Giant Forest restoration project included the construction of overnight facilities in the Wuksachi area, a new campground near Dorst Creek, the removal of development from Giant Forest, ecological restoration, and development of new visitor facilities. The project has been the top construction funding priority in the National Park Service for over a decade. This massive restoration effort to provide environmentally responsible, cost effective, and appropriate development for Sequoia National Park established a model for removing development from key National Park landscapes. The design team was responsible for finding ways to protect the natural and cultural resources, including the removal of inappropriate development from the sequoia grove, mitigating damage to the Sequoia forest, limiting future impacts through facility and infrastructure design, and preserving key historic buildings. The plan completely redesigned the parking, transportation and trail system, developed an interpretive museum, and ensured accessibility to key features with the implementation of a shuttle system to reduce congestion. Visitor lodging for overnight accommodations was relocated to Wuksachi Village, six miles away from Giant Forest: and campgrounds were relocated outside the grove at Dorst campground. The plan also improved the efficiency of park operations by removing and/or replacing deteriorated utilities, stabilizing historic buildings, and simplifying the snow removal process.

Some parking was retained within the grove to provide access to the Giant Forest museum and Round Meadow; most has been placed just outside the grove near the General Sherman Tree in the previously disturbed Wolverton service yard. Small parking areas accessible to visitors with disabilities are located adjacent to the museum, Round Meadow, and the General Sherman Tree. A shuttle system is being implemented to allow overnight visitors at Wuksachi Village and Lodgepole Campground to visit Giant Forest without bringing their vehicles to the grove and to allow day users parked at Wolverton or the Museum to connect to other features of the grove. The trail system throughout the grove has been improved and tied in to new patterns of parking. General principles for siting and design of the new visitor facilities were to constrain new construction to the footprint of existing disturbance, limit future impacts of human use through appropriate facility design, and to maintain a national park character.

Restoration Sequence: Before the Giant Forest could be restored, a logical sequence of activities needed to occur with each major component supporting the next. Necessary visitor lodging, campgrounds, and services had to be relocated to less environmentally sensitive sites before removals could begin. The new plan for overnight accommodation and all of the support services had to be sustainable and not impair park resources. Following removal of facilities, the damaged sites would not likely recover on their own; science and planning worked together to counteract the impacts of humans and re-establish natural processes. The final step was to connect Giant Forest to the visitor. Shuttles, trails, and the interpretive museum bring visitors into the forest and provide opportunities for unforgettable experiences and deep understanding of the Sequoia ecosystem. The relocation effort began in 1984 with the design and construction of the maintenance area and wastewater treatment plant. Wuksachi infrastructure, fire station, and Dorst campground followed from 1986 through 1994. The first phase of lodging opened in 1999. The museum restoration was completed and opened in 2001. The demolition and restoration was phased over five major projects, spanning the years 1997 to 2005. The final project to complete trail work and restore the Sherman Tree area was completed in 2006.

Relocate overnight accommodations: Wuksachi Village –The design for Wuksachi consolidated visitor lodging into four separate terraces to preserve significant open space areas and protect sensitive natural resources and wildlife habitat. Whenever possible, the plan utilized already disturbed areas for building sites and avoided development in locations that would impact sensitive landscape features. A lodge/dining room serves as the central element of the plan. The design concept focused on a village theme similar to the previous lodging concept at Giant Forest. A system of accessible pedestrian trails connects all areas, links to the surrounding environment, and encourages visitors to leave their cars parked once they have arrived. The trails double as service and emergency access. This site also includes a wastewater treatment plant, utilities, fire station, staff housing facilities, and amphitheater. Additionally, campsites and maintenance activities were relocated to the Wuksachi Village area.

Restore natural conditions: This phase included demolition of facilities and infrastructure from Giant Forest, and restoration of natural grade, and forest ecosystem. This phase removed 282 buildings, over a million square feet of asphalt roads, parking lots and trails, restored a total of 231 acres of the Giant Forest, rehabilitated 2 historic structures (museum and comfort station), and consolidated 18 parking lots down to 4. Demolition needed to occur in a manner that would not cause further damage to the forest system. Special construction techniques were developed to prevent soil compaction, protect significant trees, and limit the size of construction equipment to minimize vegetation and tree root disturbance. Asphalt and concrete removed from demolition operations were recycled for use as base material for new roads and parking in subsequent phases. The goal of the restoration effort was to return the forest structure and composition at the restoration sites to a condition similar to what it was prior to development. Suppression of fire had badly altered the forest to the point that a natural regeneration of the sites would have been inadequate. The restoration efforts included re-establishing natural grade, restoring soil conditions, planting locally native plants, erosion control, and prescribed burning.

Environmental Responsibility: Sustainable design and development components of the project include:

  • Protect or restore habitat –
    • 231 acres of the Giant Forest are being restored with this project
    • Environmental restoration used only locally collected seed, cuttings, or transplants to maintain genetic integrity
    • New overnight facilities were located in minimized site disturbance and disruption of the existing ecosystem by dispersing the development and careful planning to maximize open space
    • All construction within the grove is placed on fill to minimize impacts to Sequoia roots, utilities required hand excavation to protect roots
    • Interpretive exhibits and waysides provide information on the ecological restoration
    • Most parking relocated out of the grove, shuttle system used in the grove
  • Building reuse – Rehabilitation of historic market and dance hall to interpretive function, reuse of historic restrooms and ranger residence
  • Material reuse –
    • Asphalt and concrete from demolition were recycled for paving base material
    • Salvaged materials including granite curbing, timber, light fixtures, and boulders
    • Contaminated soils from gas station were remediated and reused in road subgrade
    • Hazardous materials were removed from wood structures; the unusable wood was ground to reduce hauling volume and sent to valley for reuse.

Provide visitor experience: The third component of the project was to bring visitors into the Giant Forest to enjoy, to educate, and to inspire. The Giant Forest Interim Management Plan established how visitors would access and experience the Giant Forest. It included a transportation study, site analysis, and provided a framework for parking, shuttle system, trail system, and interpretive museum. The museum is the focus of the interpretative program at Giant Forest, housed in the rehabilitated historic market structure. The museum is the entryway for visitors to the forest trail system and also serves to educate the public on the importance of protecting this significant resource for the future generations. Round Meadow is the closest Sequoia grove to the museum, previously surrounded by visitor lodging, today an interpretive trail circles the meadow. The area around the Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth – 2,500 years old, was particularly impacted by parking and traffic congestion. This project relocated parking ½ mile away on a previously disturbed site out of the sequoia grove. A trail connects the parking to the Sherman tree, shuttle service and accessible parking are located on Generals Highway near the tree.

Project Resources

Over the twenty year lifespan of this project there have been literally hundreds of employees in the National Park Service and private sector involved.  The following resources represent the project team at the end of the project and key project managers and designers throughout.

Project Managers:
Ray Todd, Henry Espinosa, Marv Wall, Mike Giller

Job Captain/Landscape Architects:
Joanne Cody, ASLA, Suzy Stutzman, ASLA, Susan Spain, Bob Steinholtz, Mark Tabor, ASLA, Peetz Quintero, Jon Mitchell, Joe Crystal, FASLA, Hugh Duffy, ASLA, Cam Hugie, Bob Chamberland

DHM Design - Bob Smith, FASLA, Dick Marshall, FASLA, Andrea Lind, ASLA, Roger Burkhart, ASLA, Bill Neumann, ASLA

Dave Battle, Tim Stacks, OZ architecture, EHDD, BRS - Craig Bouck

Exhibits Planner:
Don Kodak, PJ Lewis

Wayside Designer:
Harpers Ferry Center - Rich Helman, Chad Beale, John Grabowska

Exhibit Designer:
Howard Revis Design Services

Mechanical - Andy Roberts, Wray Kleihege
Electrical - Chuck Svoboda
Structural – Brian Tallent, Dan Tower
Civil – Steve Bainbridge, Dan Overzet
Geotechnical – Mark Matheny
Martin and Martin – Ray Tuttle, Bruce Haynes, Bill Willis, Todd Bunker, Kleinfelder Geotechnical Engineering, RTW Engineering

Sequoia National Park Design Team:
Park Superintendent - Tom Ritter, Michael Tollefson, Dick Martin
Chief of Interpretation - Bill Tweed
Chief of Matintenace - Scott Ruesch
Resource Management Specialist - Jeff Manley
Project Coordinator - Jack Vance
Ecologist - Athena Demetry, Rich Thiel
Interpretive Specialist - Malinee Crapsey
Budget Analyst - Joan Russell
Facility Manager - Paul Slinde
District Ranger - Tom Tschohl
CCM - Peggy Williams
Trails Supervisor - Steve Moffit
Trail Crew Leader - Tyler Johnson

Cultural Resource Specialist:
Frank Williss

Natural Resource Specialist:
David Lee

Contracting Specialist:
Terry Lang

Contracting Officer:
Rod Keiscome

Dan Savage, Tom Zinke

Print and Repro:
George Gilbert, Mike Middagh

Construction Management:
Willie DeOcampo



Wuksachi Village Plan - The visitor lodging plan clusters accommodations in four distinct terraces with the village center the keystone of the plan emphasizing a pedestrian environment. The trail system is designed to separate parking from the visitor experience. (Photo: National Park Service)

Wuksachi ranger residences and fire station.(Photo: National Park Service)

Wuksachi Village Center - Centrally located in a previously disturbed site positioned to capture panoramic views of the Sierras. The adjacent parking area provides minimal spaces and serves as a shuttle bus stop. (Photo: National Park Service)

Wuksachi Trails - Wuksachi is designed with a pedestrian oriented trail system where walking to dinner or exploring the outdoors is the desired mode of transportation. Bridge detailing is in the traditional rustic style of large timbers and stone detailing. (Photo: National Park Service)

The covered stair provides winter access from the museum parking area, as well as providing a key landmark for visitors. The native stone and massive log structure reflects the scale and craftsmanship of the historic park character.(Photo: National Park Service)

General Sherman Tree - this overlook on the trail to the Sherman tree includes the exact footprint of the General Sherman Tree in granite paving. From this vantage point, visitors get their first view of the tree. (Photo: National Park Service)

Exploring Giant Forest by trail to discover the wonder of a Sequoia grove up close is truly a fascinating and educational experience. Here, the trail around Round Meadow, once circled by buildings, now circled by a single accessible trail. (Photo: National Park Service)

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