Trail advocates envision multi-use connectivity between Nevada City, Truckee with ‘Pines to Mines Trail’
Special to the Sun
Nevada County and Truckee promote trails as a quality of life amenity and as a visitor-attracting resource through the tourism-marketing efforts. To learn more about regional trails, visit the following websites and links:
• Truckee Donner Land Trust: tdlandtrust.org
• Nevada County interactive trails map: gis.nevcounty.net/recreation
• Bear Yuba Land Trust: bylt.org
• Truckee Trails Foundation: truckeetrails.org
• To learn more about the east-meets-west endeavor and the ad hoc committee, contact Nevada County Supervisor Richard Anderson at Richard.Anderson@co.nevada.ca.us.
NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. — While out walking in the countryside, avid outdoorsman and District 5 Nevada County Supervisor Richard Anderson wondered about the feasibility of hiking to Nevada City from his home town of Truckee, tent camping all along the way.
A few email exchanges and a glance at a trails map told him it was possible to hike or ride a bike or horse on established trails from Nevada City east to the Eagle Lakes. If he followed Old Highway 40 west from Truckee he could arrive at the Lola Montez Lakes — or to Cisco Grove.
But getting all the way to Nevada City by trail would be a challenge.
“Those realizations started me thinking about how to fill the gaps,” said Anderson, a former Truckee mayor and town council member.
So in May, he invited more than 20 trail advocates together with the intent to increase the number and variety of trails countywide and hatch a plan for an east-meets-west trail system that some are calling the “Pines to Mines Trail.”
Improving the quality of non-motorized trails that connect Nevada City and Truckee could one day draw more visitation from recreationists and tie two regions of the county that historically haven’t worked closely together.
“When I became a county supervisor, I quickly learned that our county is bifurcated with regard to how we view ourselves — folks to the west of Donner Summit don’t really think about or understand the east side, and vice-versa,” Anderson said. “A ‘Pines to Mines’ pathway that connects both sides of the county can help us perceive Nevada County as a single geographical entity.”
So far, the new trail ad hoc committee has met twice. Hunched over County, Forest Service and USGS maps, they have focused their attention on defining about 15 miles of potential alignments where major gaps exist, mostly between Cisco Grove and Eagle Lakes Road, and between Eagle Lakes Road and the Pioneer Trail near Lake Spaulding and Bear Valley.
Besides trail advocates, nonprofit groups and area land trusts, the committee includes representatives from the Forest Service, Nevada Irrigation District and Nevada and Placer counties.
Since the original meeting, the number of participants has grown as more and more trail interests hear of the historic collaboration.
“I think the best part of this effort is bringing stakeholders together,” said Zachi Anderson of Forest Trails Alliance, who says he is designing a segment of the project from Mt. Judah to Rainbow Lodge.
The middle connection
Already, with careful planning, adventurous types are finding ways to hike, bike and ride horses between Nevada City and Truckee on existing trails, Forest Service roads and OHV routes. For users, these routes are not always obvious, practical or pleasant.
“The problem is that portions of these routes have vehicle traffic, and other portions aren’t well designed for bikes or horses or hikers, so the experience in places isn’t necessarily enjoyable,” said Anderson. “If an objective is to create a top-quality, iconic backcountry experience to maximize recreational and visitor-attracting benefits, then a non-OHV trail between Upper Lola Montez Lake and the Eagle Lakes should be considered.”
Some routes popular among equestrian riders include the Pacific Crest Trail, but do not allow bicycles. One seamless route for all trail users will take time, fundraising efforts and participation by many stakeholders.
But, there’s promise. On the west end — Spaulding Lake Trail to Pioneer — and on the east — the much-anticipated Truckee Donner Land Trust project connecting Hole-In-The Ground Trail with the Donner Lake Rim Trail — projects are moving forward.
It’s the middle section — about 13 to 15 miles — that needs work, trail supporters say.
When complete, a scenic, long-distance trail originating from two destination hubs — Nevada City and Truckee are both known for quality lodging, dining, breweries, wineries and a thriving arts and music culture — would put Nevada County on the map in a highly competitive and lucrative mountain bike tourism market.
“I see the new trail as a creation that will allow non-motorized access into an iconic, stunningly beautiful backcountry where there is currently only poor quality access — horribly eroded Jeep roads, dusty forest roads and bushwhacking rough country,” said big time supporter Jane Ragan of Bicyclists of Nevada County (BONC). “We’re imagining riding and walking on a beautiful winding trail alongside Old Man Mountain, crystalline lakes and the wonderful world of big trees and granite.”
Trails as an economic driver
Many people drive through Western Nevada County to travel to recreation destinations like Downieville in Sierra County or Lake Tahoe.
Regional trail advocates say it’s time to start tapping into and capturing some of that traffic by giving outdoors people with high expendable incomes a reason to stay and play in Nevada County.
“Our region sits on the doorstep to the Sierra; generating the needed connectivity means greater tourism revenue. In addition, communities that have robust recreational infrastructure attract businesses who market these amenities to attract personnel,” said Zachi Anderson who helped develop Nevada County Citizens for Trails, a promotional campaign advocating the merits of trail connectivity.
Like the communities of Mammoth, Park City and Crested Butte, Nevada City and Truckee are positioned adjacent to hundreds of acres of public forest and prime recreation lands.
Close to major transportation corridors — Interstate 80 and the Reno and Sacramento airports — Nevada County is easily accessible from anywhere in the country.
In Truckee, enthusiasm for trails is strong enough that homeowners recently passed the $10 million Measure R tax to finance more trails.
“Easy access to good trails enhances our quality of life, and well-designed, interesting routes can spur economic activity by attracting visitors, as places like Moab, Utah, and even Sierra County next door have learned to their benefit,” Anderson said. “Quality of life is often one of the variables CEOs and entrepreneurs examine when evaluating new locations for their businesses.”
In the 2010 Western Nevada County Non-Motorized Recreational Trails Master Plan and the 2013 Nevada County Bicycle Master Plan, Nevada County has identified where trail routes and paved bike paths should be located. The 2013 bicycle plan is currently being revised to include Eastern Nevada County.
These plans guide the county to implement trails and bikeways through county public works expenditures, dedication of rights of way in the land development approval process and potentially through expenditures of recreation impact fees.
Anderson says the county will do what it can in support of trails and could perhaps play a part in the search for grants, but it is important that trails advocates remain engaged in political processes. With a swell of support for trails in recent months, romantic hope remains high among user groups.
“Think of the majestic views of the Sierra Crest from the Donner Lake Rim Trail, Castle Peak from Andesite, Old Man Mountain and the realm of granite in the Fordyce Creek and South Yuba River drainages, Bear Valley from the Pioneer Trail lookout, immense trees along the Pioneer Trail, a National Scenic Trail, bookended by town breweries and restaurants,” said Ragan.
Laura Petersen is a freelance writer and contributor to the Sierra Sun’s sister paper, The Union, which covers the Sierra Foothills communities of Grass Valley, Nevada City and more. She may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.