Constructing connections: Nonprofit builds Nevada County trail |

Constructing connections: Nonprofit builds Nevada County trail

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

A group of volunteers coalesced to construct a unique multi-purpose 5-mile trail in a picturesque portion of forest that covers the Sierra Foothills, providing a connection from the Pioneer Trail network to the Scotts Flat Lake Recreation Area.

The Scotts Flat Lake Trail project was contemplated, sketched out and brought to fruition by a core group of volunteers that form the Forest Trails Alliance.

The alliance is comprised of numerous Nevada County-based volunteers that dedicated themselves to the group’s core mission of involving a broad spectrum of the community in “the creative act of designing and building trails.”

The two main spokespeople for the project, Zachi Anderson, a local contractor, and Mark DeMartini, a civil engineer, joined about 20 other volunteers last Friday to put the finishing touches on the meandering trail designed to provide a critical connection point between two well-used recreational areas.

While Anderson and DeMartini strove to toe the party line regarding how the trail design was meant to accommodate a full suite of users including hikers, it was clear the pair of volunteers were truly stoked on the trail’s potential to facilitate an exciting and challenging mountain bike ride.

“It’s the best mountain bike trail in Nevada City,” DeMartini said.

Mountain biking is a burgeoning sport in the Sierra Foothills — the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop has a page on its website ( where about 20 different trails of varying difficulty levels and endemic to western Nevada County are listed.

The sport provides an exciting speed-fueled way to enjoy the outdoors, but sometimes, enthusiasts can build informal trails, resulting in detrimental impacts to soil ecologies, vegetation and erosion control, according to the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

Thus, the proliferation of formal trails subject to rigorous environmental analysis, such as the Scotts Flat Lake Trail, is beneficial to the ecology and mountain cyclists.

Anderson said he takes a tremendous amount of pride in how the trail promotes progressively environmental elements such as the use of natural materials, erosion containment, run-off channels, invasive species eradication and an undulate trail design that prevents accumulation of water or materials.

Anderson, the unofficial operations manager of the trail-building project, brings his contracting background using engineering acumen combined with a knowledge of hydrology and ecology to create a “sustainable and aesthetic trail.”

While many may take trail engineering for granted, in practice the process is complex. First off, the alliance had to procure permission from the two major landowners — the Tahoe National Forest and Nevada Irrigation District.

The trail traverses both agency’s property boundaries; however, as both organizations are committed to enhancing recreational experiences in the forests of western Nevada County, consent was not difficult to procure, Anderson said.

After the green light was secured, the entities had to perform an environmental analysis, which was completed in 2012, when construction on the NID portion commenced.

Peggy Davidson, NID’s recreation manager, praised the trail, which is still under construction, although nearing completion with a formal ribbon cutting tentatively slated for May.

“I love the new trail,” Davidson said. “This is a huge contribution to NID and the community.”

The alliance marshaled about 40 volunteers in the construction phase, which began in 2011 on Forest Service property and has expanded to NID over the course of the past two years, DeMartini said.

While Anderson and his rag-tag crew, mostly consisting of mountain bikers with a few hours to spare, operate heavy machinery such as excavators and the like, wield shovels and rakes and put plenty of sweaty labor into the daylight hours, there are plenty of good times to be had during construction.

The alliance set up Scoots Spike Camp — a reference to camps set up by loggers in the early days of European settlement of the logging-rich west cost — which featured musical performances, large campfires, twilight mountain bike runs down recently constructed portions of the trail a cook with a protein-rich menu and a few adult beverages.

“It pays to be a member of this crew,” Anderson said.

Ultimately, the trail is built to have sight lines that afford hikers and bikers an opportunity to safely share the route from Highway 20 down to the popular reservoir.

Nevertheless, the winding trail with an emphasis on dirt-packed berms, challenging turns, aggressive switchbacks, a scenic corridor and “flowly features” make for an ideal mountain biking experience, Anderson said.

The trail is meant for beginners, but there are off-shoots strategically placed where riders more geared for a challenge can exercise their adrenaline, Anderson said.

If one of the public entities had undertaken the construction of the trail, the cost of putting it out to bid and awarding the contract would likely have exceeded $100,000, Anderson said.

Through the use of volunteer labor and donated equipment, the alliance kept the cost down to around $8,000. And the alliance is not finished.

Anderson retains a vision of a fully connected network of trails that provide connections points throughout much of the most scenic territory of western Nevada County.

Other projects are in the works, but for now, Anderson, Martini and their group of volunteers await the soon approaching day when all members of the community can make the fun challenging run through the thick of Nevada County’s distinctive forest.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or 530-477-4239.

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