Editorial: Dual purposes, dual trails
What is the purpose of a trail? Should it be a place for the quiet appreciation of nature? An alternate means of getting around town without the use of an automobile?
A place for kids and families to recreate? Should it be handicap accessible?
Wide to allow for traffic to flow freely? Or narrow to discourage high speeds?
Those are the questions that have confronted everyone involved in the debate over whether or not to pave the Truckee River Legacy Trail as its third phase ” connecting Glenshire to downtown ” nears completion.
On one side are those who envision the Legacy Trail as a place to escape the hustle and traffic of the area’s roadways and enjoy the river and wind rustling through the trees.
On the other side are those who envision the Legacy Trail as a vital link in connecting Glenshire with the rest of Truckee via a network of trails. Not only bicycle commuters, but families with young children in strollers or still on training wheels, in-line skaters, and those in wheelchairs see a paved Legacy Trail as the preferred option for recreating and appreciating that stretch of the Truckee River.
People on either side of the trail issue agree that the divide seems to be philosophical.
The non-pavers see the Legacy Trail as a tool to help people appreciate and protect the river. The pavers see the trail as a transportation and recreation corridor.
The irony lies in the fact that these two groups of people are so very similar. Most of those expressing support for paving the Legacy Trail would likely count themselves as environmentalists, or nature lovers at the very least. And a good number of those who would like to see the Legacy Trail go unpaved are avid cyclists.
Before any decision is made we need to learn from the Tahoe City Public Utility District, which maintains the paved trail along the Truckee River between Tahoe City and the entrance to Squaw Valley. Common complaints received by PUD staff include trash left behind by trail users and river rafters, and overcrowding on busy weekends. But the greatest source of conflict on the Tahoe City trails is between high-speed and low-speed users.
As many letter writers who have weighed in on these opinion pages have pointed out, some bicyclists avoid the Tahoe City trail altogether, preferring the dangers of Highway 89 south to avoid walkers, dogs, kids and skaters on the popular trail.
Those bicyclists who do choose to ride on the path need to be constantly aware of what’s ahead of them to avoid other trail users. And on busy weekends, things can get ugly.
The Tahoe City PUD is currently looking at ways to possibly widen the Tahoe City trail while also slowing down high-speed users so they don’t endanger everyone else.
As the Town of Truckee has worked through the process of deciding whether or not to pave the Legacy Trail, a third option of providing dual trails ” one paved and designed to accommodate bicyclists, in-line skaters and other high-speed users; the other unpaved and meandering for walkers and joggers ” has emerged.
We feel that this dual trail solution, while obviously more expensive to build and maintain, would best ensure that the Legacy Trail serves as many people and interests as possible.
The dual trail solution would greatly reduce the types of conflicts seen on the Tahoe City trail by allowing walkers, dogs and other low-speed users to avoid bicyclists altogether by staying on the natural-surface trail. And recreational bicyclists as well as commuters would have their alternate transportation corridor from Glenshire to downtown.
The dual trails could also be built so that the natural surface trail allows for an up-close-and-personal river experience , with the paved trail set back from the Truckee’s flood plain to avoid damage from flooding and lessen the impacts of its users on the river’s bank.
Whatever happens, the Legacy Trail needs to be funded and maintained properly. If the town is going to build an amenity that can accommodate large numbers of people, like a paved trail would, it must step up with the funding necessary to build the trail in an environmentally sound manner as well as maintain it.
We’ve all seen the damage to the environment that can occur when hikers or mountain bikers create shortcuts beside existing trails. And it would be naive to think that such impacts won’t happen along a paved Legacy Trail if the town is not proactive in preventing them.
Ultimately, we feel that the Rotary Club of Truckee’s original mission statement of creating, “a multi-use trail system ” the Legacy Trail ” that both provides access to and encourages appreciation and respect for The River’s natural habitat…” is realizable with either a paved or unpaved solution, but would be best met with both.
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