My Start In Conservation On The North Coast

by Dave Van de Mark 

The circumstances leading to 2-plus decades of activism had certainly begun even before I drove north from southern California in June of 1963.  But I was still just a “pup” and conservation ideas brewing within me amounted to wishful thinking, because I had no clue how to implement any of those feelings.  However, my future efforts were aided by fortunate encounters with the most influential people living then. Obviously, the most significant event was meeting Lucille Vinyard and her husband Bill.

I first met Lucille and Bill at a Sierra Club meeting, and was invited to their home. Minute rice takes longer to make than it took to create a lasting friendship! She was so warm, gracious, super friendly, totally disarming and a delightful storyteller with a curiosity about everything around her. She set the tone for my early involvement and things just escalated from there. I decided that environmental photography would be an important part of my life.

A friend at the time (1969), Ken Lytle, went with me into North Fork Lost Man Creek, a tributary to Prairie Creek below the State Park.  The North Fork is in the foreground with cutting on the hill above it.  Ken is standing on a massive (and semi tipped over) stump.

I felt fortunate to be part of the early local efforts working to establish the park and also expand it. While I did write a great deal under the auspices of Citizens For A Redwoods National Park, I principally viewed myself as a field photographer – recording many significant changes occurring to the land now incorporated within the park (tractor based clear-cutting, road building & erosion in particular).  I was also responsible for the concept and promotion of the “Emerald Mile” – a major section of Redwood Creek upstream from the newly discovered tallest trees – which figured quite prominently in placing the park’s original upper boundary much further upstream on Redwood Creek than was initially proposed. My photos appeared frequently in major news and conservationist publications. 

In 1988, I donated over 5,000 images, representing my chronicles of events from 1965 through 1978. I am still actively attempting to annotate those images and have had the opportunity to scan about a third of them, so modern digital techniques can bring to life again things that took place more than half a century ago. 

(Dave Van De Mark was a founding board member of the NEC and has spent a lifetime working to conserve the environment. His photographs of logging practices helped to raise awareness and public support for the expansion of Redwood National Park. Stay tuned in future issues for more from Dave…)

Distant View At Park Boundary Showing More of McArthur Creek Side of Ridge: May 1971 Aerial of Elam Creek watershed on the west side of Redwood Creek, being tractor clearcut to the park boundary set in 1968.

The scattered remaining trees upstream of a clear “line” evident on the left side would soon also be cut.  This is the lower part of Redwood Creek and all of the opposite side of the river was still intact at time of this photo.

Evident on the forested side of that cut boundary line is a road and what appears to be some light cutting within the forest.  These were “intrusions” into the proposed park area that Georgia-Pacific (GP) Corp. had promised to not violate while Congress was deliberating the issue, but they were lying.  It was I who flew over the area in late ‘67 and early ‘68 and saw these intrusions and reported them to Sierra Club and our own local group, Citizens For A Redwoods National park (CRNP).  Key Interior Committee Chairmen reached GP and secured a stop to any further intrusions.