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.

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