Truckee adjusts vegetation management project after community outcry
A project that got underway in mid-April has drawn the ire of several residents in Truckee’s Glenshire, Sierra Meadows, and Prosser Lakeview neighborhoods.
Truckee recently began work on its 2021 Roadway Vegetation Management plan — a project that includes removal of vegetation within 10 feet of the edge of road along 42 miles of roadside.
The aim of the project is to increase wildfire resiliency, improve roadside safety, and to improve roadway maintenance and operation, such as evacuation routes during an emergency.
“One of the things with the Paradise Fire that Truckee does have some similarities to was that the evacuation routes for the community were significantly compromised during that event by burning vegetation,” said Town Engineer Dan Wilkins during the April 27 Truckee Town Council meeting. “So, vehicles got trapped in roadways, residents got trapped in roadways, and that was partly due the number of people trying to exit the subdivision all at the same time, and partly due to those exit routes being compromised as a result of fire activity.”
Residents in the Truckee neighborhoods, however, raised concerns during that council meeting. Among the issues raised was the removal of older trees, a California Environmental Quality Act exemption, lack of public input, timing of when mailers on the project were sent out, impact on landscaping, and an overall shift in the distinctiveness of the neighborhoods.
“We may have misjudged the level of angst that this would create by some of these other subdivisions,” added Wilkins. “With that said, I don’t think the dynamic of the basic issues would have been a whole lot different had they come out six months ago versus now. I think the basic differences of opinion that individuals will have, in all likelihood, would have existed then as they do now.”
Following the Town Council meeting, the project scope was revised to include removal of all vegetation within 10 feet of roadways, except for groundcover vegetation less than 18 inches in height, trees larger than 24 inches in diameter at breast height, and vegetation within the median islands in the Sierra Meadows neighborhood. The 24-inches in diameter at breast height is typically measured at 4.5 feet from the ground.
Still, some residents in the area aren’t satisfied with the town’s updated plans.
“It’s an ill-conceived project,” said Eric Gray, who lives in Sierra Meadows, adding that the town has a taken a “negotiable stance” when it comes to listening to concerns of the residents in the area.
Gray said those in the affected neighborhoods are seeking to work with the town to find alternate solutions to the current Roadway Vegetation Management plan.
This summer’s work, which is slated to run through September, is the second part of a larger, two-year project. Vegetation removal along 61 miles of roadside, to a distance of 15 feet from the edge of roadways, was done last year in Tahoe Donner.
Tahoe Donner Association Marketing Engagement Lead Derek Moore said residents in the area were initially alarmed about the work being done last year, much of which was due to a lack of understanding about the town’s right-of-way. On most streets and subdivisions, according to town staff, Truckee’s right-of-way extends 15 to 20 feet past the paved road edge.
“Many (Tahoe Donner) homeowners in the community didn’t understand that their property line didn’t go all the way to the road,” said Moore. “Once people understood that and the importance of the project, they were more understanding.”
Currently, vegetation management has been done on roadways in Glenshire with work in the area scheduled to be completed in June. Sierra Meadows will be the next phase of the project followed by Prosser Lakeview in August. Truckee has an interactive project map on its website at http://www.townoftruckee.com.
Work on vegetation management is being done in coordination with the Truckee Fire Protection District. The project is being funded through a combination of Cal Fire grants and funds from the Truckee Special Service Area 5, which were assessed on properties in the Glenshire area. Cost of the project is estimated to be $700,000.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union
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