Just three working days before the board of supervisors will discuss the Emigrant Trail issues at its Aug. 27 meeting, the planning director, Brian Foss, released a report that did not address all the issues and suggests an ill-advised recommendation for the board of supervisors’ review.
Mr. Foss recommends opening the Emigrant Trail for purposes of human “foot traffic” only. Residents of the rural subdivisions, many of whom are livestock and horse owners, would be restricted by the proposed county resolution from riding or walking their horses, dogs or bikes or pushing baby strollers along the dirt path. This would restrict landowners from trail use that has been allowed for more than 25 years and negate the promises made to the public by the previous boards.
For the past 169 years, the Emigrant Trail has never been restricted to human walkers only. It is far away from any town; it is 6 miles in length and meanders through large equestrian estates.
In the 1980s, when the subdivisions were adopted by Nevada County, the three subdivisions used different verbiage to protect the Emigrant Trail from development. Cranmer Engineering, who prepared the subdivision maps, used the term “pedestrian trail.” At that time, the Vehicle Code defined pedestrian as non-motorized. This is not a sidewalk in town but a dirt trail in agricultural subdivisions.
Mr. Foss ignores the past and existing use, the agricultural land and the promises of the past boards. In addition, Mr. Foss ignores his own current Nevada County Counsel’s legal interpretation of “pedestrian,” which is “by foot.” Counsel further explained several times to the Planning Department, mediation Judge Albert Dover and to the subdivisions’ Homeowner Association representatives that by foot meant walking a horse, dog, or anything that can be walked by a human.
The reason for the human foot-only recommendation is thinly veiled: Having “a restrictive approach” to the word pedestrian, Foss wrote, would “… address a number of existing issues associated with trail development.”
The main issue is that the homeowners associations want to stop development of a trail, and Mr. Foss is helping them do that.
The trail-building organizations such as the Gold Country Trails Council, who promised funds, volunteers and expertise, built multi-use trails for everyone. It is against their mission to restrict users. This most restrictive approach to trail use puts a monkey wrench in the development of a usable trail for all citizens of Nevada County, as well as creates a hornet’s nest for the board of supervisors by infringing on intended public use and the landowners’ current trail use and restricting their private property rights.
To adopt this most restrictive trail use limitation on the Emigrant Trail would invite criticism and ridicule. The purpose of the easement was to preserve the historic trail and its intended public use. The board should adopt the least restrictive trail use, including horses, dog walking, etc., for a lovely trail that wanders through a pastoral landscape — and provide for solutions if there are problems with any future trail user.
Proponents of the Emigrant Trail should attend the upcoming board of Supervisors meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Rood Center in Nevada City.
Jaede Miloslavich is president of the Emigrant Trail Conservancy.