Nevada City Council rejects privately funded Sugar Loaf trail
November 26, 2013
Frequent visitors of Sugar Loaf Mountain, which overlooks Nevada City, will have to wait a while longer before a proper trail is created there — if one is ever created.
A narrow majority of the Nevada City’s Council on Wednesday rejected a more than $12,000 proposal from two Rotary clubs and a nonprofit dedicated to trails and land preservation, to design and implement a trail out of Nevada City up the scenic mountain.
“Sugar Loaf is one of first things you see when you drive into Nevada City and it is a beautiful focal point,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Ray. “I would like to see it left as open space. I hate the idea of carving it up.”
The plan called for the Nevada City and 49er Rotary clubs to fund the Bear Yuba Land Trust to create and implement a trail starting at the north edge of town, where East Broad Street becomes North Bloomfield Road at Highway 49. From that intersection, the trail would have slithered up the south face of Sugar Loaf, ending at the flattened top that is currently somewhat cleared.
“This is a gift that is being offered,” said Councilman Duane Strawser. “In this day and age where we have our budget stretched so thin, that somebody is offering to do something for us and not only pay for it, but also do it, is rare… I see a community here coming together to offer us a beneficial project that we are potentially walking away from, which boggles my mind.”
While the nonprofit entities would have done the bulk of physical and financial work toward the trail, Nevada City staff would have been responsible for the project’s approval documents, such as the California Environmental Quality Act process and garnering a permit from the California Department of Transportation for construction at the Highway 49 intersection.
“It is not that this discussion about the initial getting a trail like this off the ground, it is one thing, but the ongoing management issues that come up, we (would be) really taking something on,” said Councilwoman Terri Andersen.
In the 3-2 vote against accepting the trail proposal, Andersen cited the haste with which the proposal had been brought to the council — with a Rotary funding requirement that the project be half complete by the beginning of April. Only Strawser and Councilman Robert Bergman voted for the trail project to proceed, which was outweighed by Ray, Andersen and Mayor Sally Harris’ nay votes.
“While I am grateful for the generous offer from the Rotaries and the land trust, I think it is premature,” Andersen said. “I think we are spread pretty thin with all our wonderful trails and recreation opportunities. It just feels like the wrong time for me.”
Nevada City’s general plan gives conflicting direction for a project like the Sugar Loaf trail. On one hand, it calls for the preservation of Nevada City’s surrounding forested hills, but it also outlines a city goal to increase park and recreational opportunities.
“This is the exact project that was envisioned for Sugar Loaf,” Strawser said.
Along with purchasing Sugar Loaf Mountain in 2011, Nevada City also crafted a draft of a master plan for the land, which is not yet annexed. The intent in buying the mountain was to preserve it as a passive park area, an open space and allow for it to be used as a pedestrian trail, said Nevada City Manager David Brennan. The draft plan outlines many potential trail connections, but it was never formally adopted.
Prior to their vote, Ray and Andersen both argued that the mountain currently is accessible through an easement described as a maintenance road, though the pathway is not maintained.
“I would never let my kids walk up Coyote Street to the access road,” Strawser said. “That access road is an easement that goes through private property, so you have people walking by their house. So we are stepping on them.”
With the council rejection, the land trust will work with the Rotary clubs to possibly find other trails to fund, said Marty Coleman-Hunt, the land trust’s executive director. Coleman-Hunt indicated the land trust would be interested in working on a future trail there, however.
“We have plenty to keep ourselves busy,” he said. “We’ll let the city work it out and let us know when they are ready to move forward.”
The first step in getting a trail would be to revisit the Sugar Loaf master plan draft and work toward its adoption, said Dawn Zydonis, the city’s parks and recreation supervisor.
“It certainly kills it for now,” said Nevada City Manager David Brennan. “It means the city is not ready to go ahead on it. But it doesn’t mean there will never be a trail there.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.