Guest Column: Restoring Shirley Canyon Trail to its natural beauty
August 11, 2014
In June, I wrote a Letter to the Editor raising hell about the blue spray paint that some knucklehead(s) had painted on the granite all the way up Shirley Canyon Trail — done to prevent, I understand, the hapless hiker from straying off into the wild and getting lost.
Since that letter, I've been talking to local friends, the U.S. Forest Service, nonprofits and Squaw Valley to see if I could find out 1. Who was responsible for this bone-headed act; and 2. To follow up on my suggestion that the ski area might be interested in a clean-up effort.
Thank you Alexis Ollar, executive director of Mountain Area Preservation, for your initiative and connecting me with Squaw CEO Andy Wirth and Executive Vice President Mike Livak for swiftly and proactively responding to my firestorm.
It is our responsibility, all of us, to preserve and maintain our natural places so that future generations may enjoy the adventure, challenge and wonder of the great outdoors, despite heavy pressure from being "loved to death."
To paint over centuries-old lichen and granite is simply irresponsible. Getting lost in such high traffic and navigable terrain is just as irresponsible. Special places like Shirley Canyon are for all of us to enjoy equally, and through greater awareness, proper trail etiquette and a personal commitment to stewardship, we all benefit.
My letter has led to a positive, open and solutions-driven conversation, and Squaw Valley and USFS have responded as community leaders with three initiatives that they're working on right now:
Members of the Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council and USFS are working on a community Granite Chief Trail clean-up day facilitated by USFS and sponsored by Squaw Valley. This is expected to occur sometime in late August; USFS and SVMAC will be providing details soon.
A grassroots community project is in the nascent stages of planning, to be followed by fundraising, for Dumpsters, portable toilets, and possibly more enhanced signage at the trail head(s). Community members will be approaching the Squaw Valley Public Service District to provide oversight for these services in the same manner that the district conducts snow removal and maintenance on the paved trail in Squaw, and the resort is committed to collaborating and acting as a cornerstone funding partner.
Based on the initial project to focus on trailheads, Squaw Valley hopes to found a long-term "support" group for maintenance and trail improvement at the resort. When a worthy "project" arises to propose, this group would aid with communication, outreach and public support.
This is a great start toward restoring Shirley Canyon Trail to its natural beauty. The rewards will be great, and exercising a little common sense in the backcountry — priceless.
Peter Johnson is a Portland, Ore., resident.
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