Land Trust prepares for rehabilitation work on Independence Trail |

Land Trust prepares for rehabilitation work on Independence Trail

Ana Acton, executive director of FREED Center for Indpenent Living (left) and Warren Wittich, a volunteer with the South Yuba River Parks Association, examine the ramp leading to Rush Creek, which closed last fall due to unsafe conditions.
Submitted to The Union |

The Independence Trail has provided access to Rush Creek for people of all physical abilities since it was first built in the 1980s.

Ana Acton, executive director of FREED Center for Independent Living, said the trail provides a vital nature-connection experience for local and visiting wheelchair users, who often cannot access the steep slopes leading down to the water’s edge along the South Yuba River.

“It’s one of the few places you can actually go for a hike on the trail and then be able to go down to the water and fish or play,” Acton said.

But decades since it was first built, the ramp leading down to Rush Creek — at the western-most edge of the Independence Trail — has reached a state of disrepair. This fall, it was barricaded and closed off to the public due to unsafe conditions.

Bear Yuba Land Trust, which owns many portions of the trail, including the Rush Creek ramp, raised enough money at its annual fundraiser Sept. 16 to pay for an initial engineering report which will outline plans for a repair project on the ramp.

Marty Coleman-Hunt, the land trust’s executive director, said the organization will likely have a good idea of the cost and construction requirements for the repair by the end of the year. She anticipates the total cost could be about $650,000.

Beginning in 2018, the land trust will begin searching for grants and will launch a community fundraising effort, she said.

“I’m so grateful for the Bear Yuba Land Trust for really committing to maintaining this trail for the whole community,” Acton said.

Hank Meals, a local author and historian who worked on the original crew that built the Independence Trail, said the trail is a vital asset to everyone in Nevada County and should be preserved for future generations.

“All of us will have limited mobility someday,” he said.

Meals worked alongside John Olmsted, whose vision turned the historic Gold Rush-era Excelsior Canal into one of the nation’s first wheelchair-accessible nature trails.

Meals said the original trail-building crew used 19th-century construction techniques to set the trail in place. Over the years, repairs have been done on an emergency-basis. But the long-term maintenance of the trail, he said, is “definitely worth it. It’s a wonderful asset.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

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