The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has approved a major multi-year project in the Fallen Leaf Lake area to enhance the recreational experience and better protect the environment.
The Fallen Leaf Lake Trail Access and Travel Management Project encompasses about 14,960 acres of National Forest System lands. It aims to improve the Fallen Leaf Lake trail system by adding new trails, decommissioning other trails and bringing several old paths up to standards, trails engineer Jacob Quinn said. It would also improve public parking and replace the bridge over Fallen Leaf Lake dam.
“Really, we are just so excited for this,” Quinn said. “It’s been several years in the making. I think folks will be pleased when we implement it.”
One of the real benefits of the project, which was approved Sept. 18 and could take three to five years to complete, is the opportunity to build trail loops, he said.
Some trails in the area, such as the Pope Baldwin bike path, currently dead end. However, officials are proposing to build looped trails with multiple entry and exit points so visitors can choose exactly how far they want to go.
Sacramento residents Terry and Nancy Bridges, who have visited the area for almost 30 years, said they are excited for the changes.
“We’ve walked all of these trails,” Terry Bridges said Friday. “We’re ready for some new ones.”
Quinn said the improvements would be very beneficial to the Fallen Leaf Lake area, an area that continues to be a popular destination for both tourists and locals each year.
“It (receives) the most concentrated recreation use of any place in the basin,” he said.
Work could begin as early as spring 2014 and will be completed in phases, starting with the construction of a new bike path along Fallen Leaf Road between the campground and Highway 89, Quinn said.
LTBMU has also received money for trail work along Taylor Creek and a variety of upgrades north of Fallen Leaf Lake, he said.
In all, LTBMU has received about $435,000 for the first phase of the project, which the Forest Service expects to complete by the end of summer 2014, Quinn said. The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act as part of the Environmental Improvement Program will partly fund it.
The rest of the project will consist of installing best management practices at several trails and parking lots. Public parking, which has damaged some of the environment in the past, will also be addressed at that time, he said.
“That, to me, is a highlight for this project,” Quinn said, “to separate the pedestrian use from the motor use.”
Replacing the bridge over the dam would also take place later in the project.
Funding for the later stages of the project has not been received or calculated yet, Quinn said. However, it will be requested as other areas of the project near completion.
The project is now in a 45-day appeal period, he said. But once it ends, LTBMU will work diligently on construction documents and permitting needed to implement the first stage.
The idea, Quinn said, is to “hit the ground running” with construction as soon as next year’s snow melts.
The Forest Service would work with partners and volunteers during the project’s implementation, officials said. Temporary closures or restricted access could occur during the course of the project.