‘Undeveloper’ saves another Yuba parcel | TheUnion.com

‘Undeveloper’ saves another Yuba parcel

John Olmsted, the self-described “undeveloper” who used shoestring financing to help save the Bridgeport covered bridge and create the Independence Trail, says he’s paid off and preserved his first parcel in 11 years.

Olmsted said Tuesday he transferred ownership of a nine-acre parcel overlooking the South Yuba River near Jones Bar to the National Heritage Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization.

“The land is saved,” Olmsted said.

The parcel is good habitat for hawks and swallows because of steep slopes and snags, or dead trees, left behind by the 49er Fire, Olmsted said.

He said he’s contacted Feather River Wildlife Care and suggested the parcel could be used to release injured raptors after they’re rehabilitated.

In 1980, Olmsted and his then-wife Sally Cates bought the parcel for $14,000, he said, thinking it could someday be used if the Independence Trail was expanded eastward.

“It’s sort of what you call steep, cheap land,” Olmsted said.

The land was paid off recently thanks to a $10,000 donation from a Bay Area resident who wishes to remain anonymous, he said.

Olmsted has preserved land since 1970, mainly by putting a little money down then scrambling to raise funds to cover monthly payments until a public agency acquires the land. His shoestring financing combined with state money preserved 1,400 acres of land along the Yuba River between 1975 and 1992.

Olmsted lost steam during a draining legal battle from 1994 to 1999 over “Owl Creek,” 680 acres in Lake County at the headwaters of Cache Creek, which he is trying to preserve.

Olmsted hopes to preserve a few more properties on which he still owes money before calling it quits: roughly 50 more acres near Jones Bar; an 80-acre “Yuba Powerhouse” property in Browns Valley; and the 680-acre Owl Creek parcel.

“I will retire when they are done,” he said.

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