Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Trail News

It seems as though our old trails are constantly under attack and that if they are on public land, they are neglected, sometimes casually erased by logging, and if there is but one speck of private land involved, they are erased by logging or they are closed.

Recently the historic Smarts Crossing Road, off Drum Powerhouse Road near Dutch Flat and Alta, was gated closed by PG&E. Smarts Crossing is a lovely pool on the Bear River, where a bridge once stood, the road continuing north up to the Liberty Hill Mine and Lowell Hill Road. The bridge seems to have washed out in the 1930s. Since then the road has only given access to this wonderful pool on the river.

The road was gated closed, in 1984 I think, and several local residents banded together and with a ton of pro bono help from sympathetic attorneys, went to court and established that the old road is in fact a public road. The gate was removed.

Then six or seven weeks ago a new gate appeared. PG&E owns lands near the top of the road. PG&E was worried that sudden releases of water from Drum Powerhouse could endanger visitors to Smarts Crossing. Their main concern was camping. Interestingly, they did not post "no trespassing" signs, only "no camping" signs.

Placer County Counsel is meeting with PG&E this morning, and my instinct is that this new gate will come down. Matt Bailey of Dutch Flat apparently lit a fire under Placer County on this issue. Thanks, Matt!

More recently, the roads giving access from Garrett Road, south of Gold Run, to The Bluffs, on BLM land west of the Gold Run Diggings, have been blocked with large tree trunks, and "no trespassing" signs were nailed up, which would have one think that the BLM land is private land. However, only a narrow strip along that part of Garrett Road is private. The two blocked roads converge a hundred yards in or so, and lead to a parking area. The tree trunks seem to have been placed right on the private/BLM line. One tree trunk barrier is about fifteen feet from the edge of Garrett, the other, about sixty feet. It looks as though the same private parcel which contains the historic road to Fords Bar, on the North Fork, must be the parcel which includes the first few yards of these old roads.

The Fords Bar Road has been closed to the public since about 1985. Now these other roads have been closed, too. These roads give access to the ridiculously-named Paleobotanist Trail, which leads north from The Bluffs and down into the Diggings, breaking east to the head of the Canyon Creek Trail.

However, although both the Paleobotanist and Canyon Creek trails cross BLM lands, they also both cross private lands to the east of Garrett Road, private lands which are now for sale.

The roughly 800 acres now for sale in the Gold Run Diggings and along Canyon Creek are partly within the "Gold Run Addition" to the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River, as enacted by Congress in 1978. Congress intended that the private lands within the Gold Run Addition be acquired by the BLM, if willing sellers could be found.

Now that the owners are in fact willing sellers, the BLM has no money.

I myself wish the BLM to purchase *all* the 800 acres. Failing that, acquisitions must go far enough north to pick up the line of the Paleobotanist Trail.

But again, BLM has no money. Writing to our representatives seems to have had no effect. Talking to Placer County seems to have had no effect. This Gold Run acquisition project would seem to be an ideal candidate for the Placer Legacy. But the Placer County BOS recently voted to expend $200,000 in Placer Legacy funds on building a brand new bike trail up the North Fork canyon.

I have joined with others (we call ourselves "Friends of the North Fork") in a lawsuit to stop construction of this new bike trail, from The Confluence, 12.6 miles up to Ponderosa Bridge. We will at the least force an EIR on this new trail. I feel strange opposing a trail--I love trails!--but, oh well--that's another subject.

The old trails, the old roads, are being lost. Some people have been fighting the good fight to protect these old trails. I think of Evan Jones, for instance. And Jay Shuttleworth and his remarkable work on behalf of the Stevens Trail, near Colfax and Iowa Hill.

Such is some trail news.

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