Duffield land donation at Lake Tahoe paves way for critical trail link | SierraSun.com

Duffield land donation at Lake Tahoe paves way for critical trail link

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A recent sizable land donation is expected to help fulfill a long-desired connection that will extend public access of a popular North Lake Tahoe hiking and biking trail.

In late December 2015, billionaire businessman David Duffield and his wife, Cheryl — owners of the former Ponderosa Ranch property in town — donated 18.6 acres of private land near Incline Village to the Nevada Land Trust.

Nothing was provided in exchange for the property, Alicia Reban, executive director of the Nevada Land Trust, said this week.

This donation will provide the missing public access link needed to connect the 7-mile-long Incline Flume Trail off of Mount Rose Highway all the way to Tunnel Creek.

In addition, it will help with the preservation of the historic Bull Wheel monument located on the property, Reban said, which was used to hoist lumber up the mountain to the flume for the mines in Virginia City in the 1880s.

"We are grateful to Cheryl and David Duffield for their very generous donation of this important part of Nevada's past and a vital link in the trail system," Reban said in a statement. "We'll realign and restore this section of trail to better protect the historic area and the natural environment to prepare for public use."

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TRANSFER FROM PRIVATE TO PUBLIC

This gift comes a couple years after David Duffield wanted to trade the property with Washoe County in exchange for a small strip of public land in Crystal Bay that bisected two private residences he owns on Somers Loop.

Regional conservation groups and some Crystal Bay residents raised strong opposition to the proposed land swap, citing concerns that a public access point to Lake Tahoe would be lost. The deal eventually fell through.

With this recent successful donation, the multi-acre property is still considered private property. However, the Nevada Land Trust will help facilitate its conversion to public property, a process that's estimated to take 12 to 18 months, Reban said.

Once done, along with the completion of planned trail improvements, the property is intended to be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, who will then own and manage it, she said. The parcel is adjacent to existing U.S. Forest Service land.

"Nevada Land Trust is thrilled to be able to help move this (property) into public ownership for all to enjoy," Reban said. "That is the plan. We feel confident that with help from our partners and friends that we will accomplish that.

"… We love recreation, open space and preserving parts of Nevada's history, and that's what Nevada Land Trust intends to do in this case, as with all our projects."

A LONG-SOUGHT CONNECTION

The Incline Flume Trail starts near the Incline Lookout on Mt. Rose Highway and runs south through Diamond Peak Ski Resort before hitting the newly donated land and continuing on to Tunnel Creek.

This trail is sometimes known as the "Other Flume Trail" to distinguish it from the actual Flume Trail that runs 14 miles from Tunnel Creek south past Marlette Lake to Spooner Lake.

"We have been working behind the scenes for years to put the pieces in place to be able to restore and improve the entire Incline Flume Trail," Sue Hughes, with project partner Friends of Incline Trails, said in a statement. "Until now, that was all wishful thinking. Thanks to the Duffields, we have the missing link and can finally move toward completion and official designation for this wonderful trail."

Since the trail's routing takes it to and through private property, the USFS has not sanctioned or maintained any part of the trail, according to Friends of Incline Trails. It is not depicted on official maps, and there are no informational or directional signs.

It's estimated that property studies and trail improvements for the missing link will cost $50,000, Reban said. Nevada Land Trust is accepting donations at this time, and aims to raise the needed funds within the next two months, so trail work can begin this summer.

Anticipated work includes trail widening, erosion control, minor reconstruction, and installation of educational and way-finding signs.

"The Incline Flume Trail is the most family-friendly backcountry trail in the basin," Amy Berry, Tahoe Fund CEO, said in a statement. "It offers spectacular views and connects with so many other trails in the area, but it needs restoration and signage. We look forward to working with the Nevada Land Trust and the Friends of Incline Trails to raise the funds needed to get the trail improved for our community and our environment."

The goal is to have trail improvements for the one-third mile missing link completed by end of this summer, Reban said.

About the Nevada Land Trust

Founded in 1998 as Nevada Land Conservancy, it is a private, nonprofit land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting Nevada’s open spaces and special places for future generations. It does so through facilitating gifts of land and water, purchasing threatened habitat, protecting recreational opportunities and historic sites, and working with private landowners on conservation easements. Visit nevadalandtrust.org to learn more.

About the Friends of Incline Trails

Friends of Incline Trails formed in November 2012 as an all volunteer group of local residents — hikers and mountain bikers who want to improve the trail experience in the Incline Village area. This open group collaborates and coordinates with the U.S. Forest Service, Nevada State Parks, Tahoe Rim Trail Association, and Incline Village General Improvement District. Visit inclinetrails.org to learn more.