Last weekend Catherine O'Riley took some friends down the Canyon Creek Trail, near Gold Run, and upon their return, as they neared the gate, they were flagged down by occupants of a shiny little SUV and challenged to account for themselves: how had they gained access to the Diggings?
It turned out that the SUVers were prospective buyers of the 800 acres which has been for sale for the last six years, or so. So they had a key to gate the rest of us contrive to drive around.
They were confident of their prospects for closing the deal. According to Catherine, they are a family group, scattered across several states, with experience, it seems, in the gravel business. Their plan: buy the 800 acres for $3.3 million, and then sell more than $3.3 million dollars worth of gravel, quarried from the Diggings.
Mercury? They can handle it, the SUVers assured Catherine. Their main problem? "Fascist" environmentalists who want to preserve the Diggings unchanged.
The SUVers vision for the future of the Diggings? After the gravel is quarried away, they will make a series of ponds, stock them with fish, and have some kind of high-faluting fishing club.
I don't know what if anything can be done to avert this disaster. When the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River was first defined for study purposes, it extended above the Royal Gorge into the precincts of another wealthy club, called The Cedars. The Cedars objected strenuously, and The Cedars' political influence is legendary.
So the North Fork W&SR was chopped off at its head, and Bizz Johnson, our local Congressman, said (more or less), "Behold! What is taken away, up there, is now restored: behold the Gold run Addition, a major portal for public access to the wonderful North Fork of the American River!"
The Addition extended the W&SR "corridor" a mile north into the Gold Run Diggings.
And Congress, in 1978, directed the Dept. of the Interior (i.e., the BLM), to purchase all private inholdings within this wonderful Gold Run Addition.
But nothing has yet been purchased. And of the three historic trails giving access to the North Fork from Gold Run--the Canyon Creek Trail, the Pickering Bar Trail, and the Fords Bar Trail--only one is open to the public, the Pickering Bar Trail, and in twenty-seven years, not even a sign has been erected, pointing the way to this historic (and quite steep) trail.