Monday, April 11, 2005

Of Quads and Quandaries

OK, there's some rather minor breaking news on several fronts.

1. Gold Run Diggings. Recently a man named Richmond, who owns land along Garrett Road in Gold Run, blazed a trail for his OHV "quads" (in the plural; he has children who ride, too) down into the Diggings. I learned this from Bob and Judy S---, who often ride their horses and hike in the Diggings. On Saturday I saw Richmond riding his giant quad there. Yesterday I called one of the owners of the 800-acres-now-for-sale, Mark P---, and informed him of the trespass. A little odd, one trespasser "telling" on another, don't you think? Today I talked to Bob S--- and learned that Richmond has blazed his trail across a parcel belonging to an old friend of mine, Anne P---. So I called Anne. It seems likely that Anne will put an end to this particular trail.

Unfortunately, there are several other access points, including one on BLM lands, so if Anne closes down this one trail, Richmond will likely just use another.

2. Lovers Leap. While at Lovers Leap on December 15, 2004, my friends and I noted a cedar tree, rather a large one, had been felled on the BLM land there, and the main part of the trunk was gone. Later that day, we encountered two men cutting firewood nearby, also on BLM land. Soon thereafter, I called Folsom BLM to ask about the cutting. No one knew about it, but some of the people who would know were not in the office. I left my name and number and never heard back. Calling again in March, I talked to the Chief, Deane Swickard. He promised to look into the matter. Today I called again, to find that:

A. The cedar was cut illegally.
B. A permit to cut dead and down wood had been issued to a man in Alta.
C. The men we found cutting did not have a permit.

In my opinion, some kind of vehicle closure is needed at Lovers Leap. Near the very end of the road is a fork: either go straight to the current parking area, or go right to get down to the Big Oak and points to the west. I think both roads should be gated. It would add less than a hundred yards to the walk to the Leap itself. The present parking area has been getting kind of thrashed by cars and trucks and OHVs, in recent years.

I myself don't have much problem with letting people cut dead and down wood, but there should be limits. An area like Lovers Leap deserves special care. If we could thin-from-below (remove the small stuff) the forest west of Lovers Leap, so that it more closely approximates its historic open character, that *might* be a good thing.

3. Gold Run Diggings. The BLM is interested in acquiring at least some of the 800-acres-now-for-sale. Where the money will come from is unknown. Also, the BLM is prohibited from buying polluted lands. Hence some kind of analysis must be made of the Diggings, to quantify just how bad it is. For, it is a fact that there is some degree of mercury contamination there.

I had heard that the BLM hoped to do the analysis this year. However, today I talked to Deane Swickard of BLM, and learned that some lawsuits have been filed against the BLM, having to do with two mines, one in Nevada County, the other in Placer County. These lawsuits will eat up the money which might have been used to perform the analysis in Gold Run.

This does not please me.

4. Gold Run Diggings. While talking to Mark P---, one of the owners of the 800-acres-now-for-sale, I learned that:

A. There are no current offers, and no sale pending.
B. The owners think the BLM has lost interest in the Diggings.

I told Mark that the BLM has not lost interest, and that Jeff Darlington and the Placer Land Trust are continuing the efforts begun by Marc Landgraf and the American River Conservancy, to acquire private inholdings in and near the North Fork canyon, in the Gold Run area (from Green Valley on the east to Secret Ravine on the west).

I still haven't succeeded in luring the good Jeff Darlington up to Gold Run to see the 800-acres-now-for-sale. Today I left a message on his answering machine. These lands comprise one of the most historic and scenic properties in all California. How would the BLM best manage them, to preserve the extraordinary resources? One management scheme would be to pretty much leave The Diggings alone: enforce a vehicle closure on all the Diggings, with the possible exception of a parking area, somewhere, and let people hike and bike and ride horses on the roads, and let people hike on the trails.

It is possible that some kind of interpretive center might be founded, perhaps near the highway rest stop on I-80, or near the Dutch Flat exit, which would tell the story of the mines and the ancient Eocene river which spawned the mines, etc.

Well, that's all for now.

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