‘Beautiful timing’: Volunteers prepare Daspah Seyo Trail for public premiere | TheUnion.com

‘Beautiful timing’: Volunteers prepare Daspah Seyo Trail for public premiere

Wolf Creek Alliance and Bear Yuba Land Trust trail builder Bruce Herring moves a boulder into place along the Daspah Seyo Trail adjacent to the paved Wolf Creek trail Thursday morning in Grass Valley. Trail builders work a few hours a week, but get a lot done.
Photo by Elias Funez

New rustic thoroughfares have been added along Wolf Creek through the combined efforts of the city of Grass Valley, Bear Yuba Land Trust, Wolf Creek Community Alliance and the Nevada City Rancheria.

Locals and visitors alike can participate this month in the land trust’s inaugural NatureFest, a free event dedicated to engaging families in the outdoors.

The Daspah Seyo Trail, named in honor of the Nisenan people, offers the option to get closer to the water along Wolf Creek.

Land trust Trails Coordiantor Bill Haire said the paved Wolf Creek Trail, which begins near the wastewater treatment plant, was just opened before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring.

“It was just beautiful timing because since that it’s been a place for people to get outdoors and walk and exercise and feel safe and all that,” Haire said.

Nisenan tribal spokeswoman Shelly Covert talks with members of the community near a marker for the Daspah Seyo Trail, which is the Nisenan word for the community where Grass Valley was built. “Seyo” means waterway.
Photo: Elias Funez

Haire said the paved project improves everyone’s access to nature, including those who use wheels out of choice or necessity.

“That option is excellent for anyone with any disabilities or those pushing a stroller,” Haire said. “This gives people the option of leaving paved trails for dirt trails.”

Haire said because the paved trail is somewhat distant from the creek itself, the land trust approached the city of Grass Valley to ask if it could build a more primitive trail — narrower, rougher — closer to the water’s edge.

“We know how humans behave,” Haire explained. “They’re going to go down to the water and rather than have them make their own trails, let’s make one that takes them down a reasonable path — a sustainable trail.”

Haire said city readily approved the idea.

The “woodsy” trail, set to premiere April 24, was created by volunteers.

“The city funded the oversight that the BYLT is doing,” Haire said, referring to project oversight and volunteer management.

Haire said his team is wrapping up work on the southern end of the trail as it leaves city and Wolf Creek Lodge property.

The Daspah Seyo Trail markers have been placed along the trail where it intersects with the existing Wolf Creek Trail in Grass Valley. Work continues on the trail with the help of volunteers from the community, including the Bear Yuba Land Trust and the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.
Photo: Elias Funez


“’Daspah’ is the name of Grass Valley, and the people here called themselves ’Daspia,’” said Shelly Covert, spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria and executive director of the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project.

Covert said “seyo” can refer to any type of waterway.

Covert said the Wolf Creek Community Alliance’s decision to name the trail in honor of the Nisenan follows a positive trend in her tribe’s visibility.

“People are now curious and are asking,” Covert said. “The really unfortunate piece is much of that knowledge is lost.”

Covert said she feels a sense of shame when she can’t answer what her people’s ancestors named certain local spots, but feels empowered and creative when asked for input on nomenclature.

Representatives from the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project, or CHIRP; the Wolf Creek Community Alliance; Bear Yuba Land Trust; and city of Grass Valley convene for a photo near a trail marker for the city’s new Daspah Seyo Trail adjacent to the Wolf Creek Trail in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

Covert said her community has received such little attention over the years that naming a trail inspires gratitude even amid the tribe’s current fight for formal recognition.

“There’s been nothing for so long,” Covert said. “They’re like, ’you got a trail with a Nisenan word in it?’ and they’re so happy.”

Josie Crawford, executive director of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance, said her organization is working with Covert to identify and plant botanicals used by the Nisenan people in a shaded patch of grass 100 yards below the wastewater treatment plant along the new dirt trail.

Crawford said the alliance is working with a landscape designer to plant the first iteration of the native plant garden before fall 2021.

Crawford said she hopes the flowers will both beautify and edify the surrounding area.

Participants in the first annual NatureFest can go to Alan Thiesen Trail at Adam Ryan Wildlife Preserve in Alta Sierra; the Wolf Creek Trail; the Litton Trail near Sierra College; or Banner Mountain’s Cascade Canal Trail on April 24 to explore the region’s flora and fauna.

“When you do get down in there you’re pretty much in a different world,“ Haire said of the Daspah Seyo Trail, adding ”even though there’s a shopping center within a quarter of a mile.“

Bear Yuba Land Trust trail builder and coordinator Shaun Clarke looks over Little Wolf Creek for an area to construct a bridge connecting the Daspah Seyo Trail to the Wolf Creek Trail.
Photo: Elias Funez

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.

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