My Turn: Big decisions loom on Truckee River corridor |

My Turn: Big decisions loom on Truckee River corridor

Mike Dunsford
Special to the Sun

We are at a turning point. The Sierra Sun reports our town residential building permits plummeted 94 percent in the past four years. New non-residential projects have been equally impacted by the recession. Last week, community development reported on 2009 Planning Department activity, the foundation for the Sun’s informative article. The picture is disheartening.

However, town management and staff are responding by moving long-range planning to a top priority. There are personnel and expertise available for such investment. This reflects our town’s leadership and sensitivity to this downturn.

An and#8220;request for proposaland#8221; has been issued for West River Street site redevelopment, specifically the former Nevada County 1.43-acre yard prudently purchased by our town. Environmental clean-up is nearing closure. The RFP calls for proposals for a feasibility study. A public park and mixed uses with associated parking in some form is envisioned, and the directive. Two scenarios are requested. The budget is $82,250 for the in-depth feasibility study. Funding is largely from a block grant.

I have the answer. And my fee is $1, unless I have to go beyond this summary proposal. As a third scenario I propose the entire site be improved as a public park. And the neighboring 1.07-acre improved site to the west, which is listed for sale, should be purchased to complement the park, not the least of which could be inclusive parking. This neighboring site should be undeveloped. The assembled parcels would provide the only Truckee River in-town location for extraordinary, potentially unobstructed views to the west up-river and beyond. I’m told it’s the most photographed view when in fall color in the town. I believe it. Afford it? We can find a wayand#8230;

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As an analogy, Placer County and the California Tahoe Conservancy purchased the developable land at the east end of downtown Tahoe City on North Lake Boulevard at community urging. It is now Heritage Plaza. As we speak, the North Tahoe Fire Protection District station in Tahoe City at the west end of North Lake Boulevard, above Commons Beach, will be relocated to Fairway Drive in a far larger and more functional format. Tourists’ frequent question and#8212; and#8220;Where’s the lake? and#8212; will no longer hold water. The view corridor has been and will be enhanced. Public use and enjoyment has been and will undoubtedly be beyond expectations.

Three-plus years ago, our Truckee Tahoe Airport District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered in snow plowing and maintenance of Martis Dam Road. It is gated seasonally, and allows locals and visitors a 5-mile (round trip) walk in the heart of the valley without traffic during the winter and spring months. The Corps reports 4,300 cars a month, on average, one way, during the and#8220;offand#8221; season. From personal experience and observation, at 1.5 dogs per vehicle, that’s more than 6,000 dog trips. Plus three coyotes at last count, and 1 bear. At least twice as many children and adults with equal smiles. Martis Dam Road is now a regional park.

Our decisions and actions on the Truckee River corridor will undoubtedly emulate the Martis Valley precedent, and set the stage for the next 100 years. Or more. Let’s really, really think about that. Let’s avoid the mistakes of the past. The Truckee River is a jewel. A diamond in the rough. A waterfront park can add an extraordinary dimension to our downtown and reflect our sensitivity and vision.

Mike Dunsford is a Truckee resident.


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