Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Angora -- Working on the trails

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

The extensive trail system in the Angora burn area is being put under a microscope to figure out what should stay, be removed or be created.
A meeting on May 22 attended by nearly 70 people focused on what to do with the trail system in the burn area. Forest Supervisor Terri Marceron talked a bit before people were able to ask questions and roam the room to write on flip charts what they want the area to look like.
The three major areas of input were for a transportation system, ecological restoration that includes noxious weeds and stream zones, and vegetation management.
The National Environmental Policy Act is what the Forest Service is following as it methodically restores the burn area, which in total encompasses more than 3,100 acres. The process is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Between now and then the public will have another chance to comment on restoration efforts.
It’s likely the multi-phased rehabilitation work will begin in summer 2009.
“There’s quite a network of non-system trails. Some are user created and some are old decommissioned roads,” Catherine Schoen, assistant forest engineer, said after the meeting about paths in the burn area. “We may be able to identify a lot of need out there for adopting or creating new trials that are sustainable.”
Upgrading some trails, obliterating others are possibilities. Paying attention to sensitive areas is critical. Looking at current use patterns is another component.
Schoen expects a trail to go over Tahoe Mountain to link various sectors of that part of the South Shore.

Ex-resident closes trail

Monica Kohs only owned the house on Dundee Court for 17 months. But in that short time she changed the decades-old mountain biking culture for ever more.
It was a long held belief that the trail skirting the back yards of property in this Tahoe Mountain neighborhood was public – owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Three years ago it was discovered it is actually private land.
The trail was closed. And will remain so. A distinctive green Forest Service barrier and a sign clearly signify no one is to go on this trail.
Kohs never went on the record with the Tahoe Mountain News about why when she bought the property in December 2004 for $1.31 million she didn’t know a trail wide enough to drive on existed about 50 yards from the house. She eventually sold the 15-acre plot in May 2006 for $1.85 million.
She had a net profit, but recreationists’ had a loss of a trail that had been used for 30 or so years.
Before the Angora Fire, the Forest Service was planning to revamp the trail system in the area. A two-year wildlife survey for the greater Fallen Leaf trail planning area was under way. It was derailed a bit when the fire hit a year ago.
The Fallen Leaf study area includes 16,000 acres which includes Fallen Leaf, Tahoe Mountain, up to Angora and down to the Lake Tahoe shoreline. Essentially that study and the one for the burn area are being studied concurrently.
“The goal of our plan is to establish a sustainable trail system that meets current and future use needs,” said Garrett Villanueva, trail program manager with the Forest Service, before the fire. “Without having the right information such as wildlife, watershed, soil, recreation and heritage information, how can we make good decisions with where to put trails and what the needs are?”
The Forest Service has about 500 miles of trails in the basin, with only half of them maintained.

Looking for answers

Not everyone who lives in Angora Highlands area agrees the “Monica Kohs Trail” should have been closed. Dentist Ken Weitzman long ago stopped using the trail, but is not satisfied with the explanation the Forest Service has given for its closure.
He was at the meeting last month – again seeking answers to why it was closed.
Weitzman understands it is private land and that the El Dorado County District Attorneys Office in November 2005 determined the 15 acres did not contain a public easement. However, his contention is that a prescriptive easement should be in effect even though the DA says otherwise.
Weitzman cites Glenmore Way when in 2003 Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff recommended a trail be kept in place by someone wanting to build on their property.
In 2005, TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan told the Tahoe Mountain News, “If it’s a recorded easement on the property that is a public easement, then yes, under those circumstances we would require that it be incorporated (into the permit).”
Because the Forest Service refused to give Weitzman a written reason why the trail was closed he took the matter up with Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville. The congressman in a letter dated May 7, 2007, to Marceron wrote in part, “Unfortunately, he has not been able to ascertain why the trail was closed to public access. On his behalf, I am requesting from you an explanation as to how that decision was reached and what the prospects are for its reopening.”
A year later and Weitzman has heard nothing more from Doolittle or Marceron.
After the May 22 meeting he said of the Dundee issue, “It will never be over in my mind because I feel that it was wrong.”
In some ways he’s not surprised his issue has been met with deafness. “It’s such a low-level issue. They have more important things that affect people’s lives,” Weitzman said of federal officials.
Nonetheless, he welcomed the chance to speak out last month and talk to all levels of Forest Service employees about proposed trails in his neighborhood.
Dave Hamilton, board member of Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association, has been working with the Forest Service to make sure mountain bike advocates are represented in the process.
“The management unit and particularly the trails end have been very responsive to all the particular user needs,” Hamilton said. “That trail system will be improved. I feel pretty positive about that.”
People have until June 22 to submit comments to the Forest Service about trail plans in the Angora burn area -- 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.

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