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Donner trail dispute erupts

Donner Lake groups are questioning the motives of two Nevada County supervisors who support returning a disputed portion of a trail to a private landowner.

Members of the Donner Lake Property Owners Association and the Historic Donner Trail Committee say the old stock trail from the lake to Donner Summit would be a prime location to build homes.

That prospect has Mylan Wight of the property owners association, along with Rick Martel and Stan Sandelius of the trail group, wondering if supervisors John Spencer, a surveyor, and Ted Owens, a home builder, have some kind of financial agreement with Frank Cadjew, a Reno resident who owns the property.



“That would be a bald-faced lie,” said Owens, who represents Truckee on the board. “It’s a very inappropriate and classless tactic to take.”

At question is a disputed portion of an old trail due west of Donner Lake between the Donner Pass Road and Summit Creek.




Cadjew barred access to hikers in the early 1990s, contending it was private property. He did not return phone calls for comment on Friday.

Owens said he has never been given any campaign money from Cadjew in his races for the Truckee Town Council or for his 2004 supervisor run. He said he wants to get Caltrans to vacate an old easement on the property to protect Cadjew’s privacy and property rights and then move the trail to allow hiking access.

Spencer said he has never worked for Cadjew or accepted any campaign funds from him. The Grass Valley representative on the Board of Supervisors said he just believes in the legitimacy of Cadjew’s claim.

“I think it would be a waste of time and money for these people to go to court,” Spencer said. “It’s always better to work these things out before going to court.”

In an Oct. 25, 2005, letter to Wight, Spencer said, “you are proposing to take back an easement that is impossible to locate … If I had to bet on one of you to win in court, I would go with Mr. Cadjew.”

Martel said he has maps that will prove the easement is legitimate on a route that was once called the Lincoln Highway and the Dutch Flat-Donner Lake Wagon Road.

The supervisors have the matter scheduled for a vote at 11:30 a.m. at Tuesday’s meeting in the Rood Center.

Specifically, the board will vote on whether to send a letter to Caltrans asking the state to vacate the old stock trail easement. Owens said it will be the beginning of the end of a long-standing dispute, one in which both Cadjew and hikers will win.

The Donner groups, however, vowed to fight the proposal.

“We don’t want the original trail moved,” said Martel. “They’ve rushed this through and the main reason to not abandon it is for history.”

Leigh Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the Truckee Trails Foundation, said his group entered the dispute to end confrontations between Cadjew and others on the property and to protect the owners’ rights. He said Cadjew has already agreed to move the trail and allow a yearly historic hike for history buffs.

As to any financial gain for Owens or Spencer, Fitzpatrick said, “This is just out of left field. I don’t understand why people would take this tact.”

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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