Volunteers restore historic orchard
In 2002, 600 acres of land, including a century-old orchard of peach, pear, apple, cherry and prune plums, was transferred from the Sonoma Developmental Center to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to become part of the adjacent Jack London State Historic Park. DPR and the National Park Service partnered on developing restoration plans for this important historic and cultural landscape so that future generations could experience what a pre-World War II orchard would have been like.
In 2015, Jack London Park Partners volunteers began to implement the restoration plan. Working with Cyndy Shafer, DPR’s environmental scientist and natural resource program manager; Noah Stewart, historian and cultural resource program manager; and Archeologist Kate Green, along with other state parks staff, they began clearing competing vegetation, pruning deadwood, bracing and thinning fruit, and mulching and watering the trees, with on-going plans to remove harmful invasive species.
With the help of Glen Ellen resident Dr. Dick Kirk of the California Rare Fruit Growers and local arborists John Meserve and Rory Pool, cuttings were taken from the historic trees, which the experts at Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen carefully nurtured.
In the fall of 2017, dedicated community volunteers planted the first seedling from a cutting taken from the last surviving quince tree, and in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, two cherry and 14 apple trees were planted. On Nov. 6, 17 employees of Kenwood Winery arrived to help plant an additional 37 seedlings. Their signature Jack London wine is made exclusively from the private vineyards in Jack London State Historic Park, so the winery regularly helps protect the park’s cultural landscape. The saplings were caged to protect them from deer and other wildlife and labeled with information including which tree the grafting scion was taken from, the specific type of fruit and the year planted. The trees all received a top layer of mulch, and a healthy dose of water.
Public access to the historic orchard is on foot by taking the Lake Service Road to Vineyard Trail, and on to Plum Tree Trail in Jack London State Historic Park.