Donner state park expands by 300 acres |

Donner state park expands by 300 acres

Donner Memorial State Park has added more than 300 acres of land to its natural landscape, boosted by the ongoing land-conservation effort of local nonprofit organizations.

With the addition, the park now encompasses more than 4 square miles of land first made famous by the Donner Party tragedy.

The newest park property is south of Donner Lake in Emigrant Canyon and on the south side of Schallenberger Ridge, and is part of an acquisition plan that started more than 20 years ago, said Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

“If there’s places we care about in this state, we have to protect them now,” said David Sutton, the Trust for Public Land’s director of Sierra Nevada program. “I think we have a closing window of opportunity,” which is why the Trust for Public Land and the land trust focus on key land acquisitions in the Sierra Nevada, he said.

The donation to Donner Memorial State Park was accomplished through a long-standing partnership between the Trust for Public Land, the Truckee Donner trust and California State Parks. The 300 acres are comprised of six individual parcels.

“This is backcountry and it’s vulnerable,” Sutton said. “This is the more remote land. It has a lot of wildlife value… and there’s not many east-west corridors over the Pacific Crest.”

Sutton said the sprawling landscape has historical significance and recreational opportunities that are also important to preserve.

Norris said the land donation will also help to protect surrounding areas from encroaching residential development. The goal is to come up with a more continuous land ownership plan to ensure better forestry management and to help with fire protection. Sierra Pacific Industries owns a stretch of property from the head of Coldstream to the Pacific Crest, he said.

“From a conservation standpoint, people have been working on this since the early ’80s,” said Norris of Walter Hewlett’s 530-acre land purchase in the Coldstream Valley in 1986. Hewlett donated 155 acres in Emigrant Canyon near Horseshoe Bend to the land trust – the first chapter and largest of the six parcels of land, in an effort to protect Coldstream, according to Norris.

The second chapter began in 1990 when the Truckee Donner Land Trust was founded and the nonprofit began acquiring property in Coldstream Valley in response to threats of logging the scenic area, Norris said. In 2003, Donner Memorial acquired 1,923 acres, which included Schallenberger Ridge and Lakeview Canyon, and tripled the park’s size.

The latest land acquisition – the fourth chapter – is “part of a bigger ambition to see (the Coldstream) watershed protected,” Sutton said.

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