Walk a Giant Staircase, Finish Film


Forty-five years ago on the northern coast of California near the town of Mendocino, Maureen shot a 16mm color film about a unique natural area: The Jug Handle
Ecological Staircase. To climb the staircase is to travel back in time 500,000 years from the current stair step forming in the tide pools, across a grassy headland,
through a pine/fir forest, into a redwood forest and then to step out of the tallest trees in the world into a pygmy forest. There, on the oldest stair step,  one hundred-year-old trees barely two feet high are growing in some of the oldest soils on the planet! Jug Handle Creek then carries particles of these soils down to the shore where the sea is carving the next step from the headland.
But climbing the staircase is not just a trip into the past. The staircase is an amazingly diverse succession of plant and animal communities evolving together in the wind, rain, fog, sun and soil of the Mendocino coast. Dr. Hans Jenny, the eminent soil scientist at UC Berkeley who first brought the staircase to the public's attention called it "a living museum." He also said "There is nothing else like it in  the entire Northern Hemisphere."
Maureen shot the film through all the seasons: the rain and wind of fall and winter, the wildflowers of spring, summer’s sunlit grasses and fog in the redwoods. She intended for audiences to experience the beauty and uniqueness of each stair step. And, perhaps, feel a sense of the time involved in creating the staircase. 23070954_1579289041607735_r.jpeg

The film is also about the group of people who came together to save the land from being developed.  Once Dr. Jenny sounded the call, inspired and led by the naturalist, John Olmsted, teachers and small business owners mainly from the San Francisco Bay Area visited Jug Handle. They fell in love with the land and began the process of saving it from immediate and future development.  That process included standing in front of bulldozers with injunction papers and years of fundraising to pay off the mortgages once they purchased the land. 
They were successful! Thanks to them the staircase north of Jug Handle Creek is saved as a state reserve - the only completely intact pygmy forest staircase left on the coast.

The land south of the creek with its 145 year old farmhouse continues to grow into the nature education center these early stewards envisioned.

In the late 1970’s as Maureen was editing the film her life took a sudden, unexpected turn. She contracted a chronic and at times critical illness. The intervening
years have been spent regaining her health. Now, at last, at age 70, she is beginning the process of finishing the film. The original crew, caretakers and naturalists in the film and people long involved with Jug Handle are all on board.

Finishing this film matters.  For half a million years at Jug Handle plants, animals and the elements have been creating a living laboratory of how life works. The staircase is a model of the intricate, ingenious relationships among plants, animals and elements that sustain life on earth and allow it to thrive. All these relationships are elegantly laid out along the staircase and available for visitors to learn from and marvel at.

Jug Handle's early stewards were well aware of being "stewards in training." Becoming caretakers of this land was not in any of their life plans! And there was no training manual. So they went about the often hard work with a good deal of humor and humility.  Yet underlying every decision about paying off the mortgages, repairing the farmhouse, or growing into a nature education center was their commitment to a  a healthy relationship with the land. They envisioned   future generations discovering that relationship for themselves. 


This film about how life works and people discovering their individual and collective relationships with land they loved is timeless. Now, when discovering both of these seems vital to sustaining life on our blue-green planet,  Walk  A Giant Staircase will be especially inspiring and informative.

To ensure wide distribution and the highest quality, the film negative will be transferred to digital format, at a cost of $17,000. This includes syncing the digital sound and picture and preparing  for editing. The film will run 40-60 minutes. In the 1970's all the funds for shooting the film – film stock, audio tapes, equipment rental, lab fees – came from a grant from the Jug Handle board and Maureen’s salary at her full time “day job.”  Now your donation will transfer wildflowers on the grassland and school kids discovering the pygmy forest to digital format making the story of Jug Handle and its people available to all!

Welcome to our community. Welcome to Jug Handle.

The staircase, generations to come, and Maureen thank you!!

Link to email/facebook for more information and updates: [email redacted]
 Facebook: Maureen Kowsky
Link to JH website: jughandlecreekfarm.org


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Maureen Kowsky 
Largo, FL
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