May 19, 2017
The Reno-Tahoe landscape offers scenic hills that are accessible through various trail routes. But the region lacked a trail connecting Pyramid Lake to Lake Tahoe, until now.
Retired Reno-Sparks water planning manager, Janet Phillips, began creating her vision in 2003 of a bike path that stretched 116 miles along the Truckee River, connecting the two famed local lakes.
The Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway has gained strong support by locals and officials alike, and in 2006 the planning effort became a nonprofit foundation of which Phillips is the president.
Now, 15 years into her journey, Phillips has seen the trail's completion to 75 percent, with the remaining building scheduled for this year and next year in partnership with the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District.
"I have boundless respect for Janet, the goal she envisioned, the novel process she undertook to reach it, and what she has accomplished so far," said Phyllis McConn, community impact officer of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.
"Anyone who has met Janet will give you a firsthand account of just how rapidly they encountered her focus and tenacity. But I'm also struck by how flexible and adaptable she's been regardless of the obstacle or delay encountered."
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McConn said Phillips has persisted full-throttle when others would have justifiably thrown up their hands and walked away.
According to her, Phillips' character is one of a fantastic leader who knows when to bulldoze forward and when to back off, bringing out the best in her supporters and leading by example.
"And she's done it all with flair, finesse and tact. Now we all just want to see the trail finished and start counting the Janet-on-her-bike sightings!" McConn said.
It's this described tenacity that made Phillips the newly named recipient of California Trails and Greenways Foundation's Trail Champion award in Monterey.
"This honor is given to the volunteer who has made a significant contribution to the expansion of California's trails and greenway networks," said Cathy Haagen-Smit, president of the California Trails & Greenways Foundation.
Phillips said the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway has been a visionary project that she began out of sheer love for the Truckee River. She saw a need for a trail that ran alongside it, "it just seemed wrong to not have one," she said.
"I'm really proud to have the opportunity to lead it," she said of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway.
"And I'm really, really honored that the state of California recognized what a great project this is. I've been volunteering with them for 12 years and it's nice to get an 'atta-girl."
Phillips met all criteria of the Trails Champion award including displaying over seven years of public involvement in support of California's trails and greenways, offered exceptional work in planning, developing, funding, maintaining said trails and greenways, and more.
Haagen-Smit said that Phillips' accomplishments in connection with the Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway are outstanding.
"The Foundation recognized her vision, that benefits locals and visitors alike who can actively enjoy an incredibly scenic trail. It's super that she shares the love of this vision with everyone she meets. The board of directors is thrilled to honor Janet as a true Trail Champion," she said.
The trail is nearly completed with 4 miles to be built over this and next year. Phillips and her team have raised half of the project's funds through the private sector and earned the other half from government funding.
Their trail required collaboration among two states, five counties, four cities, and a tribe as well as public and private landowners – it has been a true labor of love.
Once the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway is open, people will be able to ride a bike from Reno to Lake Tahoe and vice versa with various access points throughout the canyon making for quick rides or all-day adventures.
"My goal is to finish it while I can still ride a bike!" Phillips said.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.