Through the wild – Nevada City to get volunteer-maintained walking trail
The usual pattern for local nonprofits is to struggle for funds, using volunteers to stretch grants and bequests to make ends meet.
So Joanne Hild, a river scientist with Friends of Deer Creek, said she was shocked when the California Resources Agency approached the western Nevada County nonprofit last fall.
“They said, ‘We have $200,000. Do you have a project?'” Hild said. “We felt very complimented.”
The group did happen to have a project. For several years, volunteers had been eyeing an abandoned one-mile stretch along the Rough and Ready Ditch.
Clearing and restoring the overgrown trail west of lower Jordan Street would make it possible to walk from Providence Mine Road to Pioneer Park, a distance of several miles.
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The ditch traverses land owned by Tektronix, which already has given its blessing for the trail, Hild said.
But the path also crosses public land. Therefore, Friends of Deer Creek needed the approval of the Nevada City City Council to apply for the Resources Agency money, Hild said.
The council approved the proposal on a 4-1 vote Monday after listening to entreaties from more than a dozen trail proponents.
But city staffers strongly opposed the project, citing their fears that the revitalized trail would accumulate trash, make the wastewater treatment plant more visible, create a fire hazard, and expose the city to lawsuits.
Councilman Steve Cottrell, the only council member who opposed the plan, said the backwood area near the trail harbors homeless camps and drug users, which he said could create a public safety hazard.
Before voting against the project, Cottrell pointed out his history of supporting Friends of Deer Creek.
“It has the potential to be a great project, but I think there are too many unanswered questions,” Cottrell said
Public Works Director Verne Taylor said he was concerned that the city’s already burdened staff would need to maintain the trail.
“I have a hard time thinking any group could do 20 years of maintenance,” Taylor said.
With 80 volunteers, Hild said she believes Friends of Deer Creek is up to the challenge.
And the council, with the exception of Cottrell, agreed with her.
“This county is rich with volunteerism – very dedicated volunteerism, not pie-in-the-sky volunteerism,” Councilman David McKay said.
To alleviate fears of the city being saddled with the maintenance of the trail, Friends of Deer Creek will work with Nevada City officials to develop a contract explaining each side’s responsibilities.
That contract will have to be crafted before the nonprofit submits its application to the Resources Agency at the end of the month.
“We still have a lot to negotiate,” Hild said.
If the project is approved, the group has already planned for the trail’s restoration.
Invasive plants such as periwinkle and English ivy choke some sections of the trail, restoration specialist Kerry MacCalden said.
Friends of Deer Creek volunteers plan to uproot these non-natives and replace them with plants indigenous to the Sierra.
Hild said she does not know when the money would come in from the state. The grant stems from Proposition 40, the 2002 voter initiative that directed $2.6 million to restore California’s waterways, parks and air.
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