Maintaining what they love: Gold Country Trails Council keeps trails in top form | TheUnion.com

Maintaining what they love: Gold Country Trails Council keeps trails in top form

Laura Petersen
Special to The Union

Teri Personeni can't think of a better place to start a ride than Loney Meadow, at 6,000-feet elevation in the heart of the Grouse Ridge non-motorized area of the Tahoe National Forest.

Wildflowers abound in early summer, a wide variety of birds flock to the meadow used historically as a dairy and there are aspen groves and mountain views and high elevation stillness and solitude.

"So many people love it. It's my favorite place to ride in the whole world. The first time I went there was probably 30 years ago. I just felt something in my heart," said Personeni, who has been riding horses for 45 years.

Personeni, a member of Gold Country Trails Council, will lead volunteer crews for a "Loney Meadow Camp, Work and Ride" Aug. 14-16.

“So many people love it. It’s my favorite place to ride in the whole world. The first time I went there was probably 30 years ago. I just felt something in my heart.”Teri Personeni

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Formed in 1981 by a group of Nevada County citizens, GCTC provides construction and maintenance of group equestrian campgrounds and trails in the Sierra Nevada foothills. They are also a resource for maps and trail educational materials. 

The group "adopted" Loney Meadow several years ago, in partnership with Tahoe National Forest. About 20 people return year after year with chainsaws and loppers to remove downed trees and low-hanging branches from the trail.

With limited federal funding and staff, the forest service relies on community volunteers like GCTC to maintain trails. Citizen volunteers from GCTC have constructed over 30 miles of trails within the Tahoe National Forest.

Most of the public trails are located in the Highway 20 scenic corridor east of Nevada City. Council members have provided over 3,500 volunteer hours to trail and campground efforts. 

"If we're going to ride it, we can maintain it," said Personeni. Without this regular presence, the trails that many enjoy would look much different, she added.

"The trails would get overgrown and people would complain," said Personeni.

From Loney Meadow, volunteers will scout surrounding areas such as: Bullpen Lake, Lower and Upper Rock Lake and the trail below Bowman Mountain.

"It's kind of a treat for the members," said Personeni who always carries a set of long-handled and short-handled loppers with her when she rides. Besides the four hours of trail maintenance scheduled on Saturday, she looks forward to the camping, trail rides and potluck.

"We really like each other. It's nice to spend time not working," she said.

Jaede Miloslavich plans to spend five days camping out for the event. Riding since she was 3, she's been a member of the club for 12 years, since first moving to Nevada County.

"The minute you move here you can join the group and it's instant community," she said.

Miloslavich and others from GCTC are working with Nevada County Supervisor Richard Anderson and other local trail groups to identify missing linkages of trail that would connect Truckee with Nevada City.

"I think GCTC will be there to close the gaps. There is broad support for more community trails in Nevada County and that is awesome," said Miloslavich.

GCTC's first project during the founding years was the Pioneer Trail. From 1981 to 2014, GCTC worked on the project in partnership with Caltrans, Tahoe National Forest, Boy Scouts of America, California Youth Authority, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

The trail extends five miles east of Nevada City by the 5 Mile House nearly to the Pacific Crest Trail.

Like many trail and conservation groups, in recent years, GCTC was noticeably "aging out," and a campaign to reach younger families has paid off. Membership of the nonprofit organization has grown to 300.

"It's an all-ages group. We've had more younger members this year than in the last five years," said Miloslavich.

In addition to trails, the group has built two group horse camps — Little Lasier Meadow Horse Camp near Truckee, and Skillman Horse Camp, located on Highway 20 above Nevada City.

Both horse camps provide individual truck and trailer parking spaces, hitching posts, corrals, fire rings, picnic tables, restrooms and water for stock. 

The group's event calendar is full with rides, trail workdays, socials and an annual eight-mile Poker Ride, one of the best attended in Northern California.

Miloslavich is happy with the number and quality of all-access trails suited for horses in the High Country. What she would like to see more of is trails in the southern reaches of the county — such as within the Bear River corridor and the Emigrant Trail between Highway 49 and Dog Bar Road.

"We need trails where we live," she said.

To learn more about Gold Country Trails Council, visit: http://www.GoldCountryTrailsCouncil.org/

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 913-3067.

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