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Deer Creek property sought by Nevada City for trail system

Members of the Nevada City council including Reinette Senum (foreground) Mayor Evans Phelps, and Valerie Moberg, gather with The Sierra Fund's Elizabeth Martin and Carrie Monohan along with other city staff and consultants, during Thursday's special city council meeting regarding the Deer Creek Parkway Project.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com |

Nevada City council members got a unique look at a 32-acre parcel — coined the Deer Creek Parkway Proposal — just west of city limits Thursday during an informational tour led by local members of The Sierra Fund.

“Right now, you’re standing inside of the 40 stamp mill of the Champion Mine,” Carrie Monohan said to the council members in attendance.

While only a portion of the foundation of the building remained, Monohan, using historic pictures of the mining districts taken in the 1860s, painted a clear picture of what the area was like during the Gold Rush.



“Most people don’t know there was a giant mine there,” Monohan said of the site.

The tour gave council members the opportunity to walk the property first-hand before returning to council chambers for a closed session where direction could be given to city staff regarding the project proposal.




The property, currently owned by members of the Gallalli family, sits along a section of Deer Creek and would make a fitting extension of the Deer Creek Tribute Trail.

But while the aesthetic and historical aspects make the acquisition of this property desirable for Nevada City, there are also some health and safety issues of concern.

“This is one of the challenges facing the city regarding fire safety problems,” Nevada City City Manager Mark Prestwich said of the property during Thursday’s tour.

The site, which encompasses the Old Downieville Highway to the north, Woods Ravine to the west, Deer Creek to the south and the Tribute Trail Bridge to the east, is very steep and the potential for a wildland fire is a serious and obvious threat an area riddled with thick brush and dry vegetation.

Acquisition of the property as an open space easement would give Nevada City officials more opportunities to abate the parcel of its excess fuel to make the area safer, though The Sierra Fund and the local Fire Safe Council have already conducted three rounds of clearing, which included cutting down and storing beetle-kill trees.

“We want to turn the land over thoroughly brushed,” Monohan told council members as they trudged through patches of star thistles and blackberry bushes.

The other identified hazards on the property are mercury-contaminated fish as well as the inhalation and ingestion of dust containing heavy metals left over from the tailings of the Mountaineer, Champion, Providence, and Wyoming Mines where lead and arsenic have been found.

These tailings were used as a rock base for many of the access roads used in the parcel as well and exacerbate the health and safety issue to hikers along the dirt roads when passing vehicles kick up dirt.

“People would be able to walk in the canyon and stay out of potentially hazardous dust that is picked up on the current road/trail,” Monohan said.

And even though the Gallelli parcel is currently private property, the public is already trespassing on the property, as evidenced by the piles of rubbish, discarded clothing, and remnants of make-shift dwellings.

“It’s more reason to do something with the property,” Sierra Fund CEO Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin said as she walked the property with city staff and council members Thursday.

The Gallellis have already allowed a lot of access through their property. After acquisition and decontamination, those areas can be properly mitigated and an official trail system around those hazardous areas can be crafted.

Monohan sees the area as an important historical asset after the area is decontaminated.

“Its historic significance is incredible,” Monohan said. “This was the first place that the chlorination process of gold extraction began, here at Champion.”

Council members on hand during the tour took a moment to sit on some boulders and dip their hands in the cool waters of Deer Creek.

“It’s like this for a quarter of a mile in each direction,” environmental planner and former Grass Valley city council member Steve Enos told the group while stopped at the creek.

After the tour, council members and staff returned to City Hall for a closed session to participate in negotiations with members of the Sierra Fund regarding purchase and/or terms of acquiring the property.

The Sierra Fund, which specializes in acquiring and decontaminating historic mine sites in the Sierra Nevada, will be utilizing funds secured from the Environmental Protection Agency and California Resources Agency to help pay for the site.

The Gallellis have agreed to donate 3 percent of the purchase price back to Nevada City to assist with the formation of trails and interpretive signs, to the tune of $600,000, according to Monohan.

While the overall price of the property had yet to be determined prior to Thursday’s closed session, Prestwich reported out of closed session that the council did decide to move ahead with the acquisition of the property and assured that the property would come at little to no cost to the city.

“This is the fourth closed session to discuss acquisition,” Prestwich said. “We have a little bit of homework to do, but as soon as we do, we’ll bring it back to the council.”

To contact Staff Writer Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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