Monday, November 29, 2004

Euchre Bar Trail, New Damage

Tom Martin of Alta wrote:

"I hiked to Euchre Bar Trail from Green Valley on November 26 and noticed
tractor-like tracks similar to those tracks observed earlier in the year.
By the time I reached the old Cosby (sp) residence, the noise from the
vehicles became quite noticeable. I stood on the concrete apron and watched
two ATVs pass. It appeared that the vehicles had 2005 tags.

"I followed their tracks across the bridge to the trail leading to Dorer
Ranch. They had turned around where the old downed log is located near the
summit of the first rise.

"I went back to the residence site to eat lunch where I met a couple hiking
down from Iron Point. When I asked if they had seen two ATVs, they answered
that a pickup pulling a trailer with two ATVs passed them at the second
railroad crossing.

"The ATVs displaced several large boulders at several switchbacks."

This makes the second time, at least, in 2004, when OHV's of some sort have damaged the Euchre Bar Trail. The first time they seemed to have entered by going around the Dorer Ranch gate, at the head of the Euchre Bar Trail on the Foresthill side of things. This time they went in directly from Iron Point. Some kind of special barrier should be erected each trailhead.

If anyone else knows of OHV incursions on foot trails I would be very glad to hear about it.

Although CDF promised, on November 3, to send me the timber harvest plans for the area out by Four Horse Flat (near Loch Leven lakes), where recent damage to the Big Granite Trail occurred (thanks to Tom Martin and Julie)--no documents have been received. The public comment period will probably be over before I even see these documents, at this rate.

Oh well, I'll get on the phone and try to bust the documents loose, somehow.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Placer Land Trust

Recently I learned that the Placer Land Trust (PLT) has become involved in efforts to acquire private inholdings in and around the North Fork canyon. They are looking at parcels between Secret Ravine on the west (near the base of the Stevens Trail), and Green Valley on the east (near the base of the Green Valley Trail).

In this they seem to be allied with the American River Conservancy in its "Giant Gap Project." Lands purchased would go to the BLM, which administers the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River from Green Valley to the Colfax-Iowa Hill bridge.

The desired parcels include some, but not all, of the 800 acres currently for sale in the Gold Run Diggings. I consider acquisition of these lands to be of the very highest priority; they contain much of the Canyon Creek Trail and the Paleobotanist Trail, as well as the historic hydraulic mine pit of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company. I only wish the scope were broadened to encompass all the 800 acres.

The PLT's homepage is at

and may I suggest, they are worthy of our support, and can accept tax-deductible donations. Information may be obtained by emailing

With regard to the PLT's work in the North Fork, the Sacramento Bee reports as follows:

Trust receives donation

By Art Campos -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Thursday, November 18, 2004

The United Auburn Indian Community has donated $50,000 to Placer Land
Trust, a nonprofit agency that is raising money to buy and preserve 630 acres
of wildland within the North Fork American scenic corridor.

The tribe, which owns and operates Thunder Valley Casino, presented the
check Saturday in a ceremony at Beermann's restaurant in Lincoln.

The UAIC established the Community Giving Program as a philanthropic branch
of its tribal government. It provides up to $1 million annually to nonprofit
groups that support education, health, arts, the environment, community
development and social services.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Fords Bar Trail, Big Granite Trail

The Fords Bar Trail and Blue Wing Trail, together, form the historic trail from Gold Run to Iowa Hill. A toll bridge, or several generations of toll bridges, stood at the crossing of the North Fork. The older bridge belonged to someone named Ford, a more recent bridge, to someone named Warner. This much can be deduced from various old maps, including the 1866 General Land Office map for Township 15 North, Range 10 East.

At some early time, possibly in the 1860s, the upper part of the Fords Bar Trail became a wagon road. Road or trail, it forked away from today's Garrett Road in Section 9 of T15N R10E. Garrett Road is labeled "Road to the Mines" on the 1866 GLO map, and then as now it leads eventually to the head of Indiana Ravine, where the very first claims were staked in what would become the Gold Run Diggings, in 1851.

Counted with the Canyon Creek and Pickering Bar trails, the Fords Bar Trail (FBT) is one of three trails giving access to the North Fork from the "Gold Run Addition" to the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River (W&SR). However, the FBT lies just to the west of the W&SR boundary. Around 1985 the FBT was closed by the landowner. The land at the junction of the FBT and Garrett was subdivided into four ten-acre parcels.

Recently, the person owning the 10-acre parcel closest to Garrett blocked the two roads leading into BLM lands atop The Bluffs, a lovely patch of forest with a parking area, where the so-called Paleobotanist Trail begins. This trail leads east across the Diggings to the Canyon Creek Trail. Here we are presented with the rare case of one private parcel blocking public access to two old trails.

In conversations with Chuck Grant of Placer County's Dept. of Public Works, about the historic Smarts Crossing Road, recently gated closed by PG&E, I mentioned the successful lawsuit brought by local residents in 1984, to show that the road is in fact a public road. Edward M. Stadum was our lead attorney in that suit, a very considerable public service, as he worked for free. Chuck said, in effect, "I don't care about the lawsuit: Placer County spent money on the road in the 1930s, as I found on our old "Maintained Mileage" maps, hence it is a County road, and can't be closed."

So I asked Chuck to check his old Maintained Mileage maps for any reference to the Fords Bar Trail. He found none, but didn't seem to understand that the FBT forks away from Garrett Road. Chuck did mention that I might look in the old Minutes of the Board of Supervisors (BOS), which could record County expenditures on the FBT.

I thought I knew where to start, for, in the January 11, 1895 edition of the "Colfax Sentinel" is an article entitled "Gold Run Items." In this article it states, "There is a movement afoot among the citizens of this place [Gold Run] and Iowa Hill to petition the Board of Supervisors to construct a bridge across the American River at Ford's Bar."

Now, Ron Gould and Bob & Judy Suter and I have been hoping to find some way to restore public access to the Fords Bar Trail. For my own part I would be content if foot, equestrian, and mountain bike access were restored: I really don't care very much about being able to drive a car on the old FBT road. At any rate, Ron took on the job of reading through the BOS Minutes for 1895 and 1896, down at the County Archives at DeWitt, in Auburn.

He found nothing about the FBT, but did find that it was a commonplace for County residents to petition the BOS to fix or improve this or that road. And, by chance as it were, Ron found a record of an expenditure of $75 on the Big Granite Trail, in 1896.

Hence, if Chuck Grant is to be believed, which seems only reasonable, the Big Granite Trail has been a public, County trail since at least 1896. Originally, it led from Cisco, on the railroad (not quite the same thing as Cisco Grove, but near), south and east across the North Fork, on a bridge, to the La Trinidad Mine in Sailor Canyon. And thence to Sailor Flat on the Foresthill Divide.

Ed Stadum advises me that these kinds of old records could prove very important in establishing the public's rights to use our old historic trails. I would like to look over the old BOS Minutes, and I wonder whether records of expenditures by Tahoe National Forest on this or that trail might have a similar legal force, as does an expenditure by Placer County.

So far as recent damage to the Big Granite Trail, I have not yet received the Timber Harvest Plan for CHY lands in the area, nor the "Ten Percent Exemption" document for SPI lands near the trail. So I have nothing new.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Blasted Settlement Conference

As someone who loves hiking, it is strange to be fighting the construction of a trail. Placer County has approved a 12.6-mile multi-use trail up the North Fork canyon, from the Confluence, below Auburn, up to Ponderosa Bridge. I joined with several others to file suit against The County, to force an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on this trail.

The County named this proposed new trail the "North Fork American River Trail," which has the unfortunate acronym, NFART. NFART is meant to accomodate hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. It is to be a minimum of four feet wide. In effect, a new road would be built up the canyon.

The County avoided doing an EIR, by performing a "Mitigated Negative Declaration," which is much less costly. In the MND, The County asserts there will be no significant adverse impacts, and that the inevitable mobilization of sediments consequent upon making a bench cut in the canyon wall, miles in length, can be "mitigated," softened, offset, rendered insignificant.

For many reasons I oppose this new trail, but near the top of my list is that it is, in fact, Phase One of the proposed Capital-to-Capital Trail (CCT), which would link Sacramento to Carson City. In Placer County, major construction of the CCT was split into three "phases," Phase One being from The Confluence to Ponderosa Bridge.

The CA Dept. of Parks advised The County that it should break the CCT into parts and pretend that Phase One was a "stand-alone" trail project. The County acted swiftly to establish this pretense, and suddenly the proposed trail was no longer called Phase One of the CCT, but rather, NFART. Even tho The County is still pursuing the larger goal of the CCT, everyone swears up and down that NFART is a "stand alone" project.

When the BOS approved NFART, we filed suit. Since our suit is based upon CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act), a mandatory "settlement conference" occurs between the parties, before trial. We had our Settlement Conference with Placer County yesterday. I was unable to stay for the entire meeting, but my sense was that we were not close to a settlement.

I had expected The County to offer to certify (somehow) that NFART is indeed a stand-alone project, and would never be extended farther up the canyon. However, they refused to do so. Apparently there is no kind of contract which could be entered into, such that future Boards of Supervisors could not act to extend NFART.

Hence, as many of us have feared, "stand-alone" NFART remains an arrow pointed right up the North Fork canyon.

The County also flatly refused to remove mountain bikes from the equation. It is bicycle use which forces the proposed four-foot width of the blasted trail. If NFART were to be a foot trail, it could be made much smaller, much narrower, much less vegetation would be cut out, and it would have very very much less impact upon the North Fork canyon. Even a combined foot and equestrian trail might be OK.

Perhaps a settlement dialogue can be maintained with The County for a time, but prospects seem slim for a compromise which satisfies either us or The County.

Such is the news about our lawsuit.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

New Trail News

Almost every day for weeks now I have been occupied with various trails issues. I have had many telephone conversations, and much email correspondence, with employees of Tahoe National Forest (TNF), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Placer County, PG&E, and the California Department of Forestry (CDF).

A few significant changes have occurred in trails issues recently outlined to this email list.

1. Thanks to Matt Bailey and Jim Johnson, Placer County went to PG&E and insisted that the new gate on the Smarts Crossing Road be removed. Well--not quite removed--PG&E agreed to "open" the gate. I am not aware that PG&E has actually done so, yet.

2. The two old roads converging into one road leading to BLM lands at The Bluffs, south of Garrett Road near Gold Run, remain blocked. A narrow strip of private property separates (public) Garrett Road with its 60-foot-wide easement from the BLM lands. Ron Gould obtained a copy of the parcel map, and we have had some difficulty ascertaining the exact line of the BLM boundary. At first the BLM offered to put a BLM surveyor on the problem, then they decided not to do so. The BLM says it will make no effort to protect the public's rights of access to The Bluffs on these two old roads. A possibility exists of creating a new road, entirely on BLM land. The Bluffs is the trailhead for the famed Paleobotanist Trail, which leads in turn to the Canyon Creek Trail.

3. The damage to the Big Granite Trail, up in the Loch Leven Lakes/Four Horse Flat area, was a result of either CHY logging operations, or SPI logging operations, or both, or even neither, inasmuch as SPI has an easement across CHY lands near where the damage occurred, and may be simply exercising that easement, and constructing a road. We know CHY's Timber Harvest Plan code number and also, the "10% exemption" harvest document's code number, filed by SPI. CDF will send me the two documents, with a bill. The area is covered by snow now.

4. An archeologist named John Betts contacted me, interested in the Big Granite Trail issue. We had a long conversation about CDF and old trails. He is quite familiar with CDF's process of evaluating Timber Harvest Plans. John said that it is vital that those of us who care about old trails make our views known to CDF, especially when some particular THP threatens a trail. He cited our meager success at Lost Camp as an example of what we should do (there, we managed to change a THP slightly to protect the China Trail). John's basic message is that CDF, and the "Registered Professional Forests" (RPFs) who prepare THPs, often have no idea these trails even exist. If we, The Public, inform them about the old trails, then, and only then, something can be done to protect them.

5. Rich Johnson of TNF says that although TNF would like to acquire much private land up by the Big Granite Trail, that looks to be something which might maybe possibly happen in the distant future. Funds for such acquisitions have been coming from the Land & Water Conservation Act monies, which the Federal government receives from taxes on offshore oil wells, and disburses for environmental uses of various types. We need to convince our elected representatives, such as Feinstein, Boxer, and Doolittle, that TNF needs much more money, to make land acquisitions, not just around the Big Granite Trail, but at Lost Camp, Sawtooth Ridge, Snow Mountain, Wildcat Point, the Rawhide Mine, Green Valley, etc.

6. How could so many squatters' camps accumulate tons of garbage right next to one of the most popular trails in TNF, the Euchre Bar Trail? How could this same trail have essentially no water bars, to protect it from erosion? Because TNF has no rangers to patrol this trail or scarcely any other trail, and TNF has no trail crews to maintain this or scarcely any other trail. The reason there are no rangers and no trail crews is that there is no budget for such employees. There is money, however, for OHV trails. Very much of what TNF does for trails nowadays is done for OHV users. The solution, according to one TNF source, is to lobby Congress to more fully fund our National Forests.

I myself am a little dubious about this funding issue. I have found, if one complains to the California Highway Patrol about speeding big rig trucks on Highway 80, that the reason the CHP cannot slow down the trucks is that they "do not have the budget" to do so.

7. So far as OHV use on TNF lands generally, TNF has started a formal study. TNF is mapping all OHV trails, official and unofficial, and once they are mapped, TNF will issue an Interim Order confining OHV travel to these existing routes. A series of hearings (some of which are beginning very soon, in Nevada City and Truckee), and a painstaking environmental study, will lead to a Preliminary Decision, which in turn will be followed by a Final Decision, in 2007. It is to be expected that OHV users will make their views and wishes known. We can too. Send an email containing your email and regular postal mailing address to TNF's


and ask to be added to the OHV Study electronic database.

For my part I want TNF to reduce the areas open to OHVs. I want foot trails, not motorcycle trails. In particular I want our historic trails protected from further damage, and in many cases, restored, since not a few of these old trails have been obliterated by logging. I want wild areas to remain wild, and partially wild areas to become more wild. To do this I recommend some road closures. This goes somewhat beyond the strict confines of OHV use, since a road closure includes any kind of jeep or SUV or automobile use. For instance, I want the Sawtooth Ridge road closed from about Helester Point to its southwest end. I want the road out to Big Valley Bluff from Forest Road 19 closed about a quarter-mile or so north of the Bluff. I want the last half-mile of the Wildcat Point road closed. I want the Sugar Pine Point road closed well north of the Point, perhaps at Pelham Flat. I want the Lost Camp road closed just beyond Lost Camp, near the head of the China Trail.

The longer closures, as at Sawtooth Ridge, might occur in stages.

And I want the trail across Duncan Canyon closed to all OHVs.