Grant moves preservation group toward goal of Donner Park expansion | SierraSun.com

Grant moves preservation group toward goal of Donner Park expansion

Katherine Morris

Photo by Colin Fisher.The view from Shallenberger Ridge.

It’s an area that’s been dubbed the “gateway to the Lake Tahoe” or a “historic jewel of the Sierra.”

Schallenberger Ridge provides much more than just a stunning backdrop for Donner Lake, though, as the area offers both a recreational wonderland and a place for unusual mountain dwellers like the yellow-legged frog and spotted owl to call home.

For the last two years, the Truckee Donner Land Trust – in conjunction with the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land and the state – has been working tirelessly on a project to preserve this historic area, particularly after years of logging have taken at toll.

Last week, the extensive Donner Memorial State Park expansion project – with a $4 million price tag – moved a step closer to completion thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Placer County Open Space Trust.

“Of the $4 million required to complete this project, this contribution from Placer Legacy now puts us over the top,” said Perry Norris, Executive Director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust. “We especially want to thank Supervisors Wygandt and Bloomfield for their support.”

The total balance was raised from a combination of public and private sources.

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“Raising the funds for the purchase was a challenge, but the community really rallied and supported this incredible opportunity to preserve such important lands,” Norris added.

As a result of the 2,400-acre expansion, Donner Memorial State Park will nearly double in size – making it one of the largest state parks in the Sierra and extending public lands from Truckee to the Pacific Crest Trail on Donner Summit.

Since 2000, the Land Trust and Trust for Public Land have been acquiring the land in Coldstream Canyon and on Schallenberger Ridge, both of which are just south of the park. The land was previously owned by Croman Timber of Oregon, and was acquired by the Trust for Public Land in efforts to preserve it from future development and logging.

Other parcels included in the park expansion are on the eastern end of the Ridge and in Emigrant Canyon, including property already owned by the Land Trust or under option.

“The Sierra Business Council is very happy that the Board of Supervisors selected this project to support,” said Steve Frisch, working landscapes director of the Sierra Business Council – which worked with Placer County on the grant. “What happens at the eastern end of the county is very important. I think when you look at all of the opportunities out there to make improvements, this is one of the most important areas. This area is really the gateway to Lake Tahoe – the gateway to the eastern part of the county.”

This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Truckee Donner Land Trust, which was formed more than 10 years ago in response to the logging that damaged parts of the Emigrant Trail that runs through the area.

The park expansion is also good news for the mountain beavers, ospreys, yellow warblers, northern goshawks and other inhabitants of the region.

“I think it really says a lot about where the values of the county and board are because they’re taking real steps to protect this incredible scenery, all of the species, and really, a piece of history,” Frisch said. “That ridge is where Moses Schallenberger wrote in his journal years before the Donner Party came through there.”