Fighting for the community | SierraSun.com

Fighting for the community

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Greyson Howard/Sierra SunKaitlin Backlund and John Eaton of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation stand on the future site of a park planned for downtown.
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It started with the possibility of a big-box store coming to downtown Truckee.

A group of residents came together, concerned about environmental issues, economic impacts, and community character in the face of new development, and formed the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation.

Since then, the group has had a hand in shaping almost every development in the Truckee area, putting in long hours at town hall meetings, negotiating with property owners, and occasionally finding themselves at legal loggerheads.

But the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation isn’t simply an environmental group out to get development ” the group has championed downtown’s economic viability, advocated for affordable housing, and even signed off on development when they’ve felt it was the right thing to do.

“There is this false dichotomy of environment vs. economy, but they’re the same thing up here,” said John Eaton, long-time member and president of the foundation. “Our organization is dedicated to sensible community planning.”

And now, with their first full-time executive director on board for a little over five months, the organization is as active as ever.

Looking back on the foundation’s accomplishments, Eaton imagined what the town might look like without the group’s influence.

“The would be a Kmart above downtown, and probably other big box stores, there would be one-third more people in the Martis Valley and four lanes for them on Highway 267. There would be a water bottling operation in Coldstream Canyon, and more golf courses. Downtown could have become a shell from competition,” Eaton said.

The organization also worked on Gray’s Crossing, Old Greenwood, and the Village at Northstar, he said.

And most recently, they negotiated the reduction of commercial space and the preservation of the historic ski hill in the Hilltop development, Eaton said.

As the group has taken on more tasks, Eaton said they decided it was time to hire their first paid employee ” Executive Director Kaitlin Backlund.

“We needed an adult to supervise us and make sure we all behave,” Eaton said with a smile.

“I enjoy advocacy and getting people involved, and this is the organization that is doing that,” Backlund said.

As the group grows, Backlund said they want to remain tied to the community both in guidance and in funding.

Looking forward, Backlund said the foundation will continue to work on the Joerger Ranch and Coldstream planned communities and a creating a pocket park on the corner of Bridge Street and Jibboom Street.

“We have to monitor development projects, but we definitely have a longer-term plan on restoring the park,” Backlund said. “We hope to be able to break ground next summer.”

Eaton said he’ll also be watching the Army Corps of Engineers progress on the Martis Creek Dam, categorized as one of the nation’s riskiest for failure, to see if they chose to remove it or rebuild it.

“If Martis Dam functions like Stampede then it would look the same, and that’s not what we preserved Martis Valley for,” Eaton said.

To learn more or to get involved, go to http://www.mapf.org.