DONER SUMMIT, Calif. - The source of the thunderous ruckus heard from Donner Summit one Saturday night has been identified. Nearly 450 ecstatic and relieved people joined together to celebrate the acquisition of the 3,000-acre Royal Gorge property.
"We did it! We did it!" was the mantra for the evening after a nail biting, grassroots fundraising campaign raised the $11.25 million needed to meet the deadline to purchase the foreclosed property from the bank and secure its protection forever.
"This is an unbelievable and unprecedented community effort," said Truckee Donner Land Trust Executive Director, Perry Norris, to the enthusiastic crowd.
Sugar Bowl hosted the event at their Mt. Judah lodge, providing a delicious buffet, beverages, and gracious staff.
Norris emceed the program, introducing representatives from an array of groups who worked tirelessly on the campaign.
The evening began with entertainment from Sugar Bowl Academy's Sam Zabel, playing bluegrass music on the violin as guests filed in. Norris then recognized the Land Trust staff and board; County Supervisor Richard Anderson; Sierra Watch; philanthropists Jim and Becky Morgan; and homeowner groups The Cedars and The Palisades.
County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery took the stage and spoke while holding up the original, seven-year old, "Save Donner Summit" banner. Afterward, Lucy Blake, president of the Northern Sierra Partnership spoke, followed by Sam Hodder, state director of The Trust for Public Land and Dave Sutton, Sierra director, also from The Trust for Public Land.
Sugar Bowl Academy student athlete Bria Riggs gave a heartfelt "thanks from our generation" for saving the Royal Gorge ski resort, followed by Ken Hall and Cliff Busby of the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, acknowledging the association for raising $3.7 million and toasting to the project's success. Sugar Bowl's General Manager Rob Kautz and Robin Donohoe, chair of the Sugar Bowl fundraising committee, made final comments.
Local band Ann Marie Sheridan and Caddywhompus then hit the stage as attendees burst into dancing, toasting, and hugs all around.
"The joy in the room was palpable", said Land Trust Vice President Janet Zipser Zipkin. "People were just beaming from ear to ear."
It's likely the region won't see a celebration of this magnitude for some time, but if there's land to save, you bet the Truckee Donner Land Trust, it's partners, and those who love open space will be there to take on the challenge.