Kaweah Oaks Celebrates 30 Years with Event and Expansion

One of the waterways at Kaweah Oaks Preserve during peak flow in the summer. Photo by John Greening.
One of the waterways at Kaweah Oaks Preserve during peak flow in the summer. Photo by John Greening.

Kaweah Oaks Preserve, the 322-acre nature preserve that protects one of the last remaining valley oak riparian forests in the San Joaquin Valley, is now 22 acres larger after purchasing a property that potentially threatened the tranquility of the preserve. Kaweah Oaks, located on the north side of Highway 198 east of Visalia is where more than 300 plant and animal species live, feed or reproduce, including the gray fox, great horned owl, Nuttall’s woodpecker, wild grapevines, willow thickets and majestic valley oaks.

“The 22-acre parcel was vitally important because it juts into the very core of the preserve, with the development implications being somewhat dire should a private landowner have succeeded in building a home or ATV track, or other noisy enterprise at odds with the peaceful character of a nature preserve,” explained Aaron Collins, director of communications and community relations for Sequoia Riverlands Trust, the regional nonprofit land trust that manages the preserve. “The acquisition, envisioned from the inception of the preserve, now makes Kaweah Oaks Preserve whole.”

The new land addition, which borders Deep Creek at the Preserve’s northern edge, will soon be restored to riparian forest and oak woodland. The replanting effort will re-establish continuous forestation along the waterway. The new parcel had been used to grow plums since the 1950s.

The money to purchase the 22 acres was raised through a combination of grants and individual local donors. The California Natural Resources Agency’s (CNRA) Land Conservation Program grant fund provided a substantial portion toward the $552,000 “Campaign for Kaweah Oaks Preserve.” The balance came from contributions from local donors such as Bill and Libby Clark, Jody Nicholson, Fred Lagomarsino, Eric Shannon and other prominent community members. The Tulare County Office of Education offered a major grant toward the restroom construction in consideration of the impact of area schools’ field trips to the preserve.

On October 1, Sequoia Riverlands Trust will honor those donors and the CNRA at “An Evening Under the Oaks” at Kaweah Oaks Preserve. Mike Chrisman will emcee and Ken Chao will perform live music. There will also be a presentation by The Raven Lady. (“Kaweah” is the onomatopoeia for crows and ravens in the Wukchumne dialect.) The video of the August 28th Native American blessing of the preserve will be screened on a loop that evening. Café 225 and Vintage Press will supply the food. Tickets are $35.

“The 22-acre expansion is a great way to celebrate Kaweah Oaks Preserve’s 30th year,” said Collins. “And the fundraising success that enabled the acquisition serves as proof of the land’s vitality to the community, as well as the importance of Sequoia Riverlands Trust’s education programming at Kaweah Oaks, which is often the means by which area students gain their very first direct experience of the natural world. Kaweah Oaks is close to home, so kids can get away from computers and smart phones to enjoy and learn about the outdoors without mediation from a screen.”

The capital campaign that funded the expansion is still underway. The campaign’s goals now include constructing permanent restrooms, which are particularly important with thousands of area students now annually visiting on field trips, and new monument signage to bring greater attention to the preserve, both along Highway 198 and at the preserve entrance on Road 182. Donors may call Sequoia Riverlands Trust at 738-0211, or visit www.sequoiariverlands.org.

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