Expansion to Donner Park announced | SierraSun.com

Expansion to Donner Park announced

Donner Memorial State Park will soon add 2,500 acres to its territory now that negotiations with a large private land owner are complete.

The project, spearheaded by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land, will extend public lands from Truckee to the Pacific Crest Trail on Donner Summit.

The acquisition will make Donner Memorial State Park one of the largest state parks in the Sierra Nevada.

Key to the expansion is nearly 2,000 acres that includes Schallenberger Ridge, a ridgeline highly visible from Truckee and Interstate 80 that forms the backdrop to Donner Lake.

That property will be acquired from Croman Corp., a White River, Ore., timber company, for a price of around $3 million, said Perry Norris, the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s executive director.

Total costs of acquiring that land and other property will be more than $4 million.

“We’ve settled on the price, and now what we are trying to do is come up with the funding for it,” Norris said.

Town officials praised the acquisition.

“Schallenberger Ridge, as much as any landmark, defines Truckee’s mountain character,” said Truckee Mayor Don McCormack. “It’s exciting for the town to see this acquisition move forward.”

The mission now for the Truckee Donner Land Trust will be finding the funds to purchase the property.

“The property is not signed over to us yet,” Norris said. “But we’ve negotiated terms, and that was a real moving target.”

The funds will come from a combination of public and private money. The passage of Propositions 12 and 13 by California voters in March means that state funds are available for park acquisitions on a competitive basis.

“The trust is not going to have to raise the entire $4 million,” Norris said. “Much of the public money will be coming from the Prop. 12 bond measure. We’re not sure of the figure right now. We’re hoping that state agencies will come up with big money for us too.”

Norris said the land trust ultimately envisions paying for at least 50 percent of the funds through public funding, but to match that the trust will also have to greatly increase its private fund-raising efforts.

“We’re going to have to raise our organization’s fund-raising efforts nearly tenfold, and by that we’re going to be talking about raising sums of money that are a quantum leap for the land trust.”

“We’re going to hope to raise significant funds locally and from off the hill,” he said.

Adding Schallenberger Ridge to the state park is a cause that will appeal to many, Norris said.

“This is going to be a compelling case for the public,” he said. “Schallenberger Ridge is probably one of the most conspicuous landmarks in Truckee.”

Land owners the Croman Corp. have set flexible terms for payment for the property.

“They’re hunters and fishermen and they appreciate what we’re trying to do,” said Norris. “They’ve given us somewhat flexible terms for us to pool the money together.”

Other parcels on the eastern end of the ridge and in Emigrant Canyon are part of the expansion, a total of about 500 acres including property already owned by the trust or under option.

“Now that these lands are included in Donner Memorial State Park, they’ll be preserved and restored for future generations to enjoy,” said Dan Wendin, a Truckee Donner Land Trust founding board member and an instrumental player in putting the project together.

The expansion territory provides habitat for a wide variety of species from mountain beaver, osprey, yellow warbler and mountain yellow-legged frogs to northern goshawks and California spotted owls. American martens, golden and bald eagles and Cooper’s hawks have been observed.

California’s Department of Fish and Game has identified Coldstream Creek as a high priority location for reintroduction of the Lahontan cutthroat trout and much of the project area is part of the creek’s watershed.

The project has been a major focus of the Truckee Donner Land Trust for 10 years.

“Dan Wendin, Jeff Cutler, our director of land conservation, Bob Macomber, recently retired superintendent for California State Park’s Sierra District and Dave Sutton are to be praised for persevering over the years,” said Norris.

“It was not until late 1998 that we were able to move forward,” said Wendin. “The prospects for a bond issue were looking good, Croman had decided to sell its property and State Parks was behind the project. When the Trust for Public Land agreed to lead the negotiations, we knew that it was only a matter of time before we would be successful.”

Founded in 1990, the Truckee Donner Land Trust is the local non-profit grass roots organization preserving and protecting open spaces in the Truckee/ North Tahoe region.

For further information contact the Truckee Donner Land Trust at (530) 582-4711 or P.O. Box 8816, Truckee CA 96162.

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