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Sequoia Legacy Tree: A Downtown Treasure

Suzanne | 11/13/2018 | Arts and Entertainment

In April 2018, Visit Visalia dedicated its newest tourist feature: The Sequoia Legacy Tree.  The feature is located in the charming and historic downtown area of the city, on the west side of the US Post Office at Acequia and Court Streets, just a block from Main Street. 

For history buffs this site is a bit like the proverbial thread hanging from a sweater. Once you start pulling it, so much more is unraveled. Let’s review how this project began and what historical threads were discovered.

The 2016 Centennial celebration of the National Park Service was the starting point for the Sequoia Legacy Tree. In looking for a way to commemorate the Centennial with a lasting tribute to our national park friends to the east, Historian Terry Ommen noted that the sequoia tree planted on the side of the post office would be a great tribute and could serve as an educational feature for visitors. The tree, a 3 year old sequoia sapling from the Grant Grove, was planted 80 years earlier by Superintendent Guy Hopping (of General Grant National Park which in 1940 became Kings Canyon NP) and Visalia Post Master Nathan Levy. We agreed with Terry that this tree which has silently stood ‘hidden in plain sight’ would be an excellent tribute. And so the project began.

Over 2 million visitors come to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and many stay in Visalia as part of their national parks vacation. With hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions, visitors can explore the area as well as visit the parks. The Sequoia Legacy Tree is a great introduction to the parks with its educational displays that talk about Sierra watershed, sequoia trees and park history. Although this tree is only 80 years old and about 65 feet tall, visitors can get a sense of what they will see up in the park. It is hard to comprehend just how large those trees are so for scale there is a path around the Legacy tree which approximates the circumference of the General Sherman Tree. At about 102 feet in circumference, it is one massive tree-in fact the largest living thing on earth! The sign at the corner of the lot is made from a single slab of sequoia with the bark still visible across the top. The sign is about 8 inches thick!

Through the efforts and contributions of many in the city, the project was completed. The National Parks are truly a part of our city and Visalia proudly calls itself Gateway to the Sequoias. Signs of our affinity for the parks are found throughout the city. We operate the Sequoia Shuttle, a seasonal shuttle service from Visalia to Sequoia National Park, visitors can grab a burger and beer at Sequoia Brewing Company, and we have a slice of a sequoia tree right in the Visit Visalia office! Not only do we have tourists that stay here as they come and go to the parks, the city relies on the Sierra Nevada Mountains for water and electricity

Come explore Visalia. From Main Street to Moro Rock, real adventure starts here.

A few facts about our history with the parks:

  • George Stewart, local newspaper editor of the Visalia Daily Times began a publicity campaign that resulted in the establishment of the Sequoia and General Grant National Parks in 1890. (General Grant became Kings Canyon National Park in 1940.)
  • Members of The Mather Mountain Party gathered in Visalia at the Palace Hotel in July 1915 before embarking on their trek through the Sierra that would result in the creation of the National Park Service in 1916
  • A year later, Mather was in Visalia when he got word that President Wilson established the National Park Service. Mather was named as its firsts Superintendent.
  • In February 1936, the sequoia tree was planted on the west side of the downtown Post Office by Grant Grove Superintendent Guy Hopping and Post Master Nathan Levy in collaboration with the 2 federal agencies. Hopping spent winters using an office in the basement of the Visalia Post Office.
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P.O. Box 2734 Visalia, CA 93279
(800) 524-0303 : (559) 334-0141