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ASLA-NCC

American Society of Landscape Architects
Northern California Chapter

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Threatened Cultural Landscapes

Threatened Cultural Landscapes

Jack London LakeThe Cultural Landscape Foundation has recently released 2012 Landslide: their annual list of at-risk and threatened landscapes. This year’s listing is of special interest to the ASLA-NCC, because Jack London Lake, in Jack London State Park, is one of the at-risk sites. The park is located in Glen Ellen, about 20 minutes north of Sonoma.

London’s design for the lake included a curved stone dam, wood dock and simple log bathhouse. Ranch laborers constructed the dam using native stone and a combination of Chinese and Italian style masonry. The dam and battered interior wall are considered prime examples of fine small dam building. Melding utility and beauty, the project transformed a low meadow into an oasis on the slope of Sonoma Mountain.

In 1962, the lake was designated a National Historic Landmark. The lake is a physical reminder of the first water-rights legal battle in northern California, when others contested that the water from the mountain creek was not rightfully London’s to dam. In a trial, London won the right to continue piping water from the creek. Today the dam is cracked and leaking and the lake is clogged with sediment and marshy plants. The water’s surface is covered with algae making the lake inhospitable to fish and other wildlife and preventing visitors from swimming in its depths.

In 2006, the Jack London Lake Alliance was established to repair the dam, dredge the lake, and restore riparian areas. Fundraising efforts were temporarily suspended when the park was listed for closure. Currently, the lake project has been reinvigorated with intentions to complete the project within the next four years. The Alliance is seeking financial support to restore the lake to the serene, quiet oasis it once was, both for park visitors and for the native plant and animal life on the mountain. For more information and to contribute, please visit the Jack London Lake Alliance Web site.

 

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