Work to begin this summer on $6.8 million Truckee museum
May 11, 2011
TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; In a time of gaunt budgets and fat deficits, a state park museum project has escaped Californiaandamp;#8217;s recent wave of cuts and will break ground sometime this summer.Preliminary planning work is under way for the $6.8 million High Sierra Crossing Museum, to be located at Donner Memorial State Park near the existing Emigrant Trail Museum at 12593 Donner Pass Road, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.Scott Elliott, acting superintendent of the state park, said the museum will replace the aging Emigrant Trail Museum, with expanded facilities and exhibits educating visitors about the Donner Party, history of the American Indian here, natural resources, railroad development and construction of Interstate 80. Completion is expected sometime in 2013, Elliott said.andamp;#8220;The exhibits we have here in this museum (the Emigrant Trail Museum) are stale and donandamp;#8217;t do justice to the history,andamp;#8221; Elliott said. andamp;#8220;Iandamp;#8217;d like to think that this will be a much richer selection of historical exhibits.andamp;#8221;Elliott said construction is possible because of earmarked bond funding and a Federal Highway Administration grant through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, known as ISTEA.The act, signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, was designed to restructure transportation funding for highway and transportation programs with an emphasis on public participation and transportation alternatives, according to the US Department of Transportation.The Truckee museum was one of the projects that secured funding from the act during its 1992-1997 lifespan.andamp;#8220;Certainly the timing has an odd feel to it, but weandamp;#8217;re talking about a different pot of money that comes from different periods of time,andamp;#8221; Elliott said. andamp;#8220;The juxtaposition of the two (funding time periods) is odd, but itandamp;#8217;s just the way the system is.andamp;#8221;Elliott said if the money was left in the general fund of California State Parks, the museum would have had little to no chance of construction, considering ongoing budget concerns from Sacramento, where lawmakers are tasked with solving a $25.4 billion shortfall. Massive cuts to the California State Parks system represents one possible option.While construction is under way, the Emigrant Trail Museum will still operate; once the job is done, the old museum will be used for office and storage space until the end of the buildingandamp;#8217;s lifespan, Elliott said.According to a press release from State Parks, preparation for the site entails cutting roughly 100 trees in the area to create a area large enough to accommodate buses and RV parking. Additional trees will be planted to screen out views of passing cars and commercial development in the area.Apart from additional exhibits, other reasons for the new museum include, according to State Parks:andamp;#8226; better historical marketing of the region,andamp;#8226; cost-efficient energy consumption, and andamp;#8226; facilities that accommodate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides equal access for disabled persons.Elliott said there have been numerous community meetings extending as far back as the mid 1990s, with the majority of residents in favor. Previously, the primary concern was not whether or not to build the museum, but where to put it, an initial site option being near the east shore of Donner Lake.