Mt. Shasta's Sisson Meadows
By Gary VanDeWalker
Mount Shasta hides behind a purple thistle which gazes over the sea of grass and islands of cattails. The boardwalk hovers as if magic over the dampness of the earth, weaving a path through the peaceful acres. This piece of land is a living picture of the once uninhabited valley on which J.H. Sisson began a community, known today as Mount Shasta City.
The valley floor is now crisscrossed with streets, with homes and businesses planted along the borders. In the city center, a ranch was built as the city grew around the 7½-acre expanse. As modernity changed the landscape, the field remained frozen close to the time before people lived here. The fertile wetland sometimes supported hay and lazy cows.
In January 2003, the Siskiyou Land Trust purchased this property, known as Sisson Meadow. The ranch long unattended, the trust helped the meadow reclaim its heritage. The old, decaying barn was removed. Natural drainage was restored as a boardwalk was built to allow the beauty here to be admired but remain unharmed.
Members of the trust hold volunteer events to maintain the integrity of the field. The boardwalk is repaired, benches are cleaned and conservation efforts allow the area to maintain its natural grandeur. Teachers from the nearby school display the meadow to their students, introducing them to science while giving them the values needed to be good stewards of their world.
Sisson Meadow may be accessed from the Mount Shasta Library and Sisson School, as well as an entrance on Castle Street. A pond near the school is the seasonal home to ducks and geese that choose the waterway as a nursery for their babies. Throughout the day people walk in quiet wonder, disappearing for a short distance from the life of their town, to hide in its center and enjoy the quiet slowness as the field dreams.
Along the south side of the meadow, a small creek marks the property line, meandering to the west over a small waterfall before disappearing underground. The foliage towering over the water makes an enchanted gateway to the field, drawing the visitor from the surface street to a hidden past, shading a rough stairway of slated rock. The Castle Street entrance hosts picnic benches for those looking to enjoy a meal and time here.
The efforts of the Siskiyou Land Trust extend beyond this place. The non-profit organization is working toward protecting open space throughout Siskiyou County, drawing upon the resources of wetlands, viewsheds, forests and wildlife habitat. It works with those overseeing the lands to protect both their interests and those of future generations.
Many other projects consume the trust's efforts. A greenway trail from Mount Shasta City Park to the downtown is in development. In the Shasta Valley and Scott Valley, efforts are in the making to keep farmland and ranches in agricultural production. The Garden Share project next to their offices on Alma Street provides a common place to grow food. The trust is proposing a trail from Snowman's Hill on Highway 89 toward McCloud, which would give access to the Mott Airport near Dunsmuir.
Small children watch the ducks and return daily to see their babies grow. In the future, these children will return to see new generations of birds with new babies, holding the hands of their own children. And there another purple thistle will be growing, standing tall for each generation to see.