Placer County acquired the final three links last month needed to lay out a public trail network that someday will connect Hidden Falls Regional Park to the Bear River.
“These acquisitions represent a major milestone in our efforts to achieve two important goals: preserving oak woodlands, stream corridors and other key open space areas and building trails so the public can enjoy them,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Holmes. “Completing the trail network will be a major undertaking, and I am confident we will succeed.”
He emphasized that Placer County has a proven strategy for open space preservation that relies on partnerships with organizations such as the Placer Land Trust and the use of federal and state grants to supplement local funding.
“I am elated to see how much has been accomplished since the County created the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program in 2000,” said Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt, a leading proponent of the program. “These latest acquisitions are small, but important pieces of the puzzle because they will allow us to build trails that connect Hidden Falls to more than 3,500 acres of foothill wilderness preserved by the Placer Land Trust.”
“This is another critical step in an incredible project with multiple public benefits, not the least of which will be the creation of an unparalleled public trail system in the Sierra Nevada foothills,” said Executive Director Jeff Darlington of the Placer Land Trust.
One cornerstone of the proposed trail network is Hidden Falls, a county park located north of Mt. Vernon Road in the Garden Bar area between Auburn and Lincoln. In May, Placer County expanded the park from 221 to almost 1,200 acres, adding 23 miles of additional trails, more waterfall access, bridges, and new picnic areas.
The public can now enjoy a total of 30 miles of natural-surface trails within Hidden Falls that welcome hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. The other cornerstone is the Harvego Bear River Preserve, a 1,773-acre property owned by the Placer Land Trust, about six miles north of Hidden Falls. The preserve is located in the Auburn Valley-Big Hill area west of Highway 49, on the south side of the Bear River, the boundary between Placer and Nevada counties.
In 2010, The Trust for Public Land acquired the Harvego Preserve and conveyed it to the Placer Land Trust. Placer County, the California Wildlife Conservation Board and individual donors contributed funding for the acquisition. Placer County, the Placer Land Trust and other partners have been working for several years to plan a continuous trail system between Hidden Falls and the Harvego Preserve.
Between them are several private properties owned by the Placer Land Trust: the Taylor Ranch Preserve, which lies just one and a half miles north east of Hidden Falls Regional Park, Kotomyan Big Hill Preserve and Outman Big Hill Preserve. Harvego Bear River Preserve and the other Placer Land Trust properties are not yet open to the public; until they are, the Land Trust hosts free docent-led tours on the second Saturday of each month.
“The community has expressed a desire for more recreation lands where families can hike, run, ride, and just enjoy a little wilderness,” said Darlington. “Local community support will be key in making that happen. We need local investment to leverage grant funds to protect these ‘natural playgrounds’ and make them available to the public.”
When completed, the network through Hidden Falls and the Land Trust parcels to the Harvego Preserve is expected to offer over 50 miles of public trails.
In April, the Board of Supervisors approved finalizing transactions with owners of the three properties needed for the missing trail links. Altogether, the county acquired about 17.5 acres outright, an open space conservation easement on another 5.4 acres and a trail easement along the boundaries of one property. The total purchase price for the three acquisitions was $297,600. As part of the trail plans, the Placer Land Trust is seeking to raise $750,000 in 2014, and has already installed fencing along a portion of the proposed trail easement.
The three acquisitions will help conserve an east-west corridor used by wildlife migrating between the valley floor and the Sierra Nevada and a north-south corridor through the oak woodlands.