Supes should protect access to historic trail
April 30, 2013
One of the greatest of the many treasures in Nevada County is its own history. It's an aspect of the high quality of life we enjoy, making those day trips with the family not only ones of beauty and nature but ones that transport us back to the age that set the groundwork for the lives we live today.
One such historical transportation route is the Emigrant Trail that traverses three neighborhoods in South County. But due to complaints from landowners over public easement agreements, access has been closed to the public as its future use remains in debate.
The 6-mile segment of the Emigrant Trail that crosses through Golden Oaks, Lodestar and Sunshine Valley neighborhoods was first used in 1844 by thousands of people who made their way from the eastern regions of the U.S. to settle California.
A group of property owners argues the trail is merely a series of discontinuous easements, and they would like to have their easement agreements abandoned. This would be a travesty on many levels, especially when trail advocates have proposed addressing the connectivity issues as well as improving the trail to make it accessible to the public — the rightful owners. When these landowners, who now seek to block one of the few trails in South County, decided to purchase their property, they were aware of the existing easements.
If we begin abandoning such public easements because of vocal landowners, where does it stop? How many other trails, historical or not, could be closed to the public because adjacent property owners decide they don't want others walking on trails near their homes?
Property owners have offered a compromise in suggesting the public easement could be replaced by a historic preservation easement, which is essentially a guided tour. But why should the public give up something that is inherently its own in return for a guided tour, which someone would have to regulate or operate? That doesn't seem like much of a compromise.
Littering, fire danger and potential liability issues are other points made by the property owners in seeking to shut off access. But trails that wind throughout other portions of western Nevada County remain open to the public and provide clearly marked paths and trash receptacles.
Jaede Miloslavich, president of the Emigrant Trail Conservatory, said if the easements are upheld, a trail could be built in less than a year.
On Tuesday, the board of supervisors threw the task of compromise back at the public, asking opponents and proponents to fashion an agreement in the next 90 days. If an agreement isn't reached, supervisors say they will then make the decision.
Though compromise is often a good thing, bringing both sides of an issue to the table, it should not come at the cost of public rights.
Nevada County's board of supervisors, which represents the entire county in this debate — and all others that come before it — should also remain at the table, ensuring the community won't lose its right to access an important piece of its rich history.
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