Users of historic trail balk at compromise
A simmering dispute over a historic trail across private land near the western shore of Donner Lake will stew a little longer.The Nevada County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to explore solutions to the impasse that is pitting a land owner against homeowners around Donner Lake. The owners of the property, Frank and Julie Cadjew, said the easement across their land for what was a stock trail to move cattle has no legal description. Furthermore, they said the path of the trail is now unclear and obscured.”Nobody knows where it goes,” said Frank Cadjew. “I don’t even know.”Cadjew said that hikers often end up walking a dirt road he has built on his property. But some Donner Lake neighbors, who have had confrontations with the Cadjews while trying to use the trail, argue that the county will be abandoning history and giving away public access if it trades the historic easement for a new trail alignment on the other side of the Cadjews’ property.
“We’re not about to be backing down,” said Rick Martel, a member of the Historic Donner Trail Committee, in an earlier interview. “This is one of those things that over our dead bodies will this trail be given to Mr. Cadjew.”District V Supervisor Ted Owens said he hopes an agreement between the property owner, Nevada County and the Truckee Trails Foundation can lead to the new recreation trail that will link Donner Lake to Donner Summit and allow an annual history hike on the trail.In exchange the county would abandon the stock trail easement, which skirts the Cadjews’ cabin.For that to happen, however, the county will ask Caltrans permission to abandon the trail easement, which the county has held since 1955. The action will bring the matter to a full public hearing before Caltrans, and then the county board, before a decision is made.An agreement for a new trail would benefit the public since the old stock trail, which was the route of the Lincoln Highway and an early wagon road, is not a legal recreation trail, Owens said.”Using the trail as a hiking trail, a mountain biking trail, a picnicking trail – none of those rights exist today,” said Owens in an earlier interview. “The trail has a single purpose, which is to transport stock.”
Still, the Donner Lake neighbors were supported by Lincoln Highway Association members at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting in Nevada City, and the Donner Lake Property Owners Association have supported making the trail public. The trail committee has raised enough money to do survey work along the trail, and the results show that the trail that is used today closely matches the Lincoln Highway route and the old wagon road, according to Martel.”We owe Mr. Cadjew nothing but to advise hikers to stay off his private property and on the marked trail,” Milan Wight, a longtime activist for having the trail public, said at Tuesday’s meeting. Some Donner Lake homeowners owners have lobbied the county to force the Cadjews to remove boulders placed at the trail’s entrance that block vehicles.Martel said his group will accept no compromise. They want the historic trail marked out and opened as a public recreation trail.But Leigh Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Truckee Trails Foundation, said the proposed new easement could turn into a beautiful section of trail. The Cadjews have tentatively agreed to donate the trail easement and allow an annual history hike.
“We were really blown away with how beautiful it was,” said Fitzpatrick, who walked the potential new trail twice last year. “It really offers some stellar views of Donner Lake and the Donner Summit area,”The Truckee Trails Foundation stepped into the situation to help broker a deal, since the dispute did not seem to be moving forward.”The approach to this point has been a lot of finger-pointing,” Fitzpatrick said.The Truckee Donner Historical Society and the Truckee Town Council have also expressed support for the a compromise trail agreement.Although Truckee Donner Historical Society President Gordon Richards said he would like to see the historic route become the established trail, the new trail and an annual guided history hike on the old trail may be the only viable solution at this point to the dispute.”The historic route is absolutely historic,” Richards said. “It boils down to the legal issue of the definition of a stock trail … we support having a public hearing on the issue.”
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