Prehistoric artifacts threatened by off-road trails | SierraSun.com

Prehistoric artifacts threatened by off-road trails

David Bunker

Seeking to preserve prehistoric artifacts, the Forest Service wants public feedback on a plan that could close or reroute a number of roads and trails on a small portion of the Tahoe National Forest between the Prosser Lakeview Estates subdivision and Prosser Reservoir. “This is a sensitive area being intensively used with notable damage being done to the land and to prehistoric archaeological sites,” said Truckee District Ranger Joanne Roubique. “We need to put measures in place to change how people travel through the area.”A visit to the area by forest officials and the public will begin at the east end of East Alder Creek Drive on June 18. Anyone who wants to view the proposed road closures should attend, Forest officials said. The Forest Service plans to drain and shape the main dirt road from the east end of East Alder Creek Road to the reservoir. Areas subject to puddling will be graveled. The intent of this maintenance work is to clearly mark where people can drive without causing further damage to resources. “Its like spaghetti when you go back there,” said Tahoe National Forest spokeswoman Diane Minutilli. “So we’re trying to make it more clear and direct. It’s just not necessary to have that many roads.”The proposal seeks to rehabilitate a number of the visitor-created roads and trails that are causing damage to the prehistoric sites. Some of the visitor-created roads and trails that are stable will be retained to ensure access to the reservoir and to allow east and west travel through the area. “Our goal is to minimize impacts to this sensitive area, not to exclude anyone who wants to travel through the area,” said Recreation Officer Rick Maddalena. According to Forest Service Archaeologist Carrie Smith, most of the land between the subdivision and the reservoir is rich in high quality basalt that was used by Native Americans to make stone tools. “The Alder Hill Basalt Quarry stretches from Alder Hill through Prosser Lakeview Estates to Prosser Reservoir,” Smith said. “The basalt was processed into various tools including projectile points. People would work cobbles of basalt into what we call ‘bifacial blanks.’ The area’s prehistoric residents carried these blanks away … and fashioned them into tools elsewhere. “For example, archaeologists have discovered basalt from the Alder Hill Basalt Quarry on prehistoric sites as far away as Placerville on the El Dorado National Forest,” said Smith.Much of the ancient quarry is located on private lands, within existing subdivisions, or below the high water mark of Prosser Reservoir. Subsequently, much of the quarry has been destroyed. “On the Forest Service system managed land, we need to find ways to protect the remaining archaeological sites,” Smith said.Breakout BoxThe Forest Service field visit at the east end of East Alder Creek Drive will be on Friday, June 18 at 4 p.m. A map of the proposed changes can be obtained at the Truckee Ranger District Office at 9646 Donner Pass Road. Copies can also be received by e-mail by calling 587-3558. Comments are requested by June 18, 2004.