Caltrans wants enviro review of trail alternative |

Caltrans wants enviro review of trail alternative

Caltrans is asking that Nevada County perform an initial environmental review before abandoning a historic stock trail that runs from Donner Lake to Donner Summit.

Backers of allowing full public access on the stock trail, which corresponds with the Dutch Flat Wagon Road route and in places old Highway 37, were pleased with Caltrans’ request. They hope the environmental review will lead to the preservation of the old road and open public access for recreational uses.

The stock trail has been at the center of a controversy over public recreational access across private land for nearly 15 years. While a group of Donner Lake homeowners insist the public has a right to use the trail, the property owner and Nevada County staff say the old stock trail right-of-way can be used only for the transportation of livestock.

“We are very glad to hear that Caltrans agrees that this road is a valuable historical resource and they are requiring a [California Environmental Quality Act] study before any abandonment hearing,” said Rick Martel, who is part of the Historic Donner Trail Committee, based in Stockton, Calif., which is pushing for the trail’s preservation.

Nevada County District 5 Supervisor Ted Owens, who brought the issue before the county board and backs an alternative trail through the same piece of private property, said the request by Caltrans was expected.

“The initial study is in no way a road block,” Owens said. “It was anticipated.”

Caltrans is asking for the environmental review because of the historic nature of the trail.

Owens said the issue will likely be on hold until the snow melts and the research for an initial study can be completed.

A large section of the trail washed away during winter storms, said Owens, and he believes his trail alternative, backed by the Truckee Trails Foundation, is now an even better proposal.

The new trail alignment will bypass the portion of the trail that was damaged by winter storms, keeping the trail from passing next to the property owner’s cabin, Owens said. It will then tie back into the stock trail as it gains elevation.

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