Sagehen station celebrates 50th
The Sagehen Creek Field Station’s 452 acres of streams, forests and meadows have been fertile ground for a half century of scientific research – and a mountain of personal memories.On Saturday, the location eight miles north of Truckee celebrated its 50th anniversary and, following its induction into the University of California Natural Reserve System earlier this year, bears the distinction of being the second-oldest outpost in the university system.But John Hopkirk, a student at the station in 1959 and an instructor in 1967, will remember the hidden collection of cabins off of state Route 89 as more than just a summer studying aquatic biology or instructing Berkeley students. Sagehen, first and foremost, will go down as the place where he met his wife, June.Things moved quickly after their initial meeting in 1967, Hopkirk recalled. “There is something about the air up here because 12 hours later I proposed to her in [Truckee’s] railroad depot parking lot,” said Hopkirk, seated at a table in the middle of the research station’s property during the celebration. What followed, as the saying goes, is history.The Hopkirks were among the dozens of former researchers back at the station on Saturday for the event. Some came from as far as Florida to meet old friends, see the cabins one more time, and hear about the progress of the research station.The station’s progress may not be striking on the surface, but electronic networks, construction renovations and added scientific equipment have positioned the post for success in the years ahead. The increased involvement of U.C. Berkeley may mean the most for the future of Sagehen.What makes the upgrades even more notable is the fact that the location, which had deteriorated from lack of funding in the 1980s, faced closure only 11 years ago.Mike Williams, who became the manager in 1981, found the gas and sewer lines in terrible condition when he arrived. A gas leak actually ignited only a month after he arrived, exploding the room he was in and shooting him out of the front door. He landed unceremoniously in front of the cabin just as two vans full of University of California students were arriving and had to roll around on the ground to extinguish himself, he told Transect, a publication of the Natural Reserve System.A network of Truckee locals, including past Truckee Mayor Kathleen Eagan, is largely credited with the preservation of the research site in 1993, but that didn’t mean that the condition of the site immediately improved. Funding was still scarce and it wasn’t until 2001, when Jeff Brown and his wife, Faerthen Felix, came to run the site that the revitalization began that would land it in the University of California Natural Reserve System.Under Brown’s untiring direction, the buildings were renovated and new technology was brought in.Sagehen Creek now boasts several federally threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout in a section of the creek housing an underwater viewing room. Scientists at the facility are studying behaviors of the trout, which will determine which genetic strain of the three is best suited to live in stream environments.Sagehen research stretches across broad boundaries, touching on some of the most important issues facing the Sierra Nevada. Watershed health, wildfire prevention, the state and future of the Sierra snowpack are all analyzed in some way by the expansive facility.”Sagehen Basin is a small area, and what we see is an opportunity for a stepping off point to the rest of the Tahoe Basin,” said Tahoe National Forest Supervisor Steven Eubanks. Of course, Brown has some incredible help at the site.”Shorty” Boucher, who managed Sagehen with her husband form 1989 to 1994, is back heading the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout observation research.”I love this place and I always have,” Boucher said. “The opportunity to be back and do research is the best that I could ask for.”
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Volunteers are being sought to take water samples from creeks, streams and smaller lakes, including Lake Tahoe, in the Tahoe-Truckee watershed to get a snapshot of water quality at a single moment in time.