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Donated land to be new park

David Mirhadi
John HartThe late Frances H. Burton gave the Nevada County Land Trust her 39 acres on Lake Vera Road outside Nevada City.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Friends described Frances Burton as a quiet soul, but her actions will speak for generations of future animal lovers and nature enthusiasts.

Her death April 6 at age 85 set in motion a plan by the Nevada County Land Trust to transform her 39 acres on Lake Vera Road north of Nevada City into a public park with a hiking area and trails for dog-walking.

Burton continued to live on her property for almost six years after she gave her land to the trust in 1997 in the form of a gift deed. Upon her death, she stipulated her land would be given to the trust. Until the last few days before her death, she often enjoyed hiking in her expansive back yard that included rare Native American grinding stones.

“She was a delightful lady who loved children and dogs,” Land Trust President Geri Bergen said. “She valued the ambiance, the environment of her property, and she wanted to share that with other people.

“We very much appreciate her love for the property, and we appreciate the opportunity to be able to play a role in making it available for the public to use.”

The Burton parcel is one of at least two pieces of land bequeathed by individuals to the Land Trust in the past two years. Nevada City resident Al Salter, who died in October 2001, gave his 36 acres on Bitney Springs Road near Mystic Mine to the Nevada County Land Trust to develop a public park with jogging trails for residents and their dogs, Land Trust Executive Director Cheryl Belcher said.

Burton, a former Nevada County librarian, enjoyed the property in part because the varied terrain allowed her to indulge in her passion for hiking and walking with her dog, which one of her friends said lived to be 27 years old, in part, because the canine enjoyed his master’s property so much. Burton’s ashes are scattered on the property.

While she was alive, Burton allowed the Land Trust to maintain the property she lived on and invited elementary-age children to a summer nature camp on her land that included classes in pond ecology, Native American culture and birding.

The home where Burton lived will likely remain, Belcher said, though the process to transform the property into a public facility with parking spaces will be a long one and will include fund-raising efforts.

“It’s going to take years,” Belcher said.

Burton was a member of a Sierra Club senior hiking group that took trips to Bridgeport and Downieville, said Meg Palley, a friend who first met Burton nearly three decades ago.

She described her friend as “quiet and helpful,” someone who wasn’t unusually outgoing.

“She cared about people. I just think she was shy,” Palley said. “I valued her a lot.”

Palley helped Burton work out the deal with the land trust, which is scheduled to again host a children’s camp next month on the Burton property.

Palley said of her friend’s gift, “It’s her land, and she got to do what she wanted with it.”

Belcher said animal and nature lovers will greatly benefit from the two parcels.

“It’s a rare occurrence, and unusual that two people who love animals so much gave these parcels. These were very community-minded people.”


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