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April 22, 2013
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Emigrant Trail issue in front of Nevada County supervisors

Proponents believe a public easement traversing three South County neighborhoods to be a historically significant route used by European settlers on their way to settle California more than 167 years ago.

Opponents argue it is merely a disjointed, unconnected series of easements that says more about poor planning efforts in the 1960s than about the pioneers’ westward tracks.

On Tuesday, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will determine the way forward for the controversial Emigrant Trail issue.

In January, as Supervisor Ed Scofield was sworn in for his second consecutive term, he said the trail issue, which is in his district, is one of the most contentious matters that has come before him in his career as a supervisor.

The Nevada County Planning Department gathered input regarding three separate, non-contiguous public trail easements that traverse three county subdivisions built in the 1970s.

Golden Oaks, Lodestar and Sunshine Valley are neighborhoods in South County that all contain public trail easements related to the historic Overland Emigrant Trail used by pioneers during the late 1800s as thousands of settlers poured in from the eastern portion of the United States in search of opportunity.

Trail advocate Karen Wyeth wrote in a letter to The Union last year, that the easements were placed in the original development agreement as a means of allowing continual public access to the historically significant trail.

Debbie Porter, president of the Golden Oaks Homeowners Association, said last July that the public easements were likely agreed to as a matter of expediency by the original developer, but the easements as currently constructed present logistical challenges.

“There are seven broken lines that lead through Golden Oaks,” Porter said at the time. “They run next to roads that are privately maintained by the neighborhood and in some cases run through a creek. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The planning department has suspended recreational use on the easements as it has studied the easements, requested input from the public and formulated four options for decision-makers, according to documents.

The first is to maintain the easements in the three subdivisions for future public trail development, while continuing the suspension of use until a bona fide trail is created.

The second option is to replace the trail easements that run through the subdivisions with similar easements at a different location more conducive to public recreation.

The third option consists of replacing the trail easements with a historic preservation easement and providing the public with guided tours through the subdivision.

The last choice features a compromise between the two parties that allows limited use of the trail through the subdivisions.

The staff report indicates the subject of public trail easements in the three subdivisions has been a flash point of contention for more than three decades.

“Two well-defined sides have emerged with legitimate concerns and strong, intelligent and diverse opinions,” the staff report states.

In July, the planning commission distributed an online survey, which generated 684 responses and prompted 49 more responses delivered by mail.

However, the survey was not statistically relevant, and technical problems prevented it from being of use.

The board will convene at 9 a.m. Tuesday at 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated Apr 22, 2013 08:51AM Published Apr 24, 2013 08:50PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.