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Christmas Valley trail may be rerouted this year

Trails that run southeast of Lake Tahoe by Freel Peak and through Meiss Country could be rerouted, improved on or closed by the end of the summer.

The U.S. Forest Service, as part of a Lake Tahoe Basin trail management plan that began in 1999, identified the Freel/Meiss area as the first of nine areas to be worked because trails there have the largest impact on water quality, said Garret Villanueva, civil engineer at the agency.

The work being proposed includes a new trail up Freel and the rerouting of the Dardanelles Loop (also known as the Christmas Valley trail) that runs along the Upper Truckee River.



“It varies, but it would be moved up to 1,000 feet from its existing location,” Villanueva said.

The trail is cherished by mountain bikers for its difficulty and beauty.




“We’ve been working with TAMBA (Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association),” Villanueva said. “We’ve come up with different proposals and when we go to construct it we will be consulting with TAMBA.

“We want to keep it a similar type. It will stay difficult … because that’s what people are looking for.”

The Forest Service has identified 485 miles of trail at the basin, about half of which are not considered system trails.

The Freel/Meiss area contains 98 of those trail miles, 42 of which are nonsystem trails.

According to the agency’s proposal, released last week, seven of the 42 miles of nonsystem trail will be upgraded to become part of the trail system, 13.4 miles will be kept as primitive trail and 13.6 miles would be closed.

The Forest Service also expects to create five miles of trails and possibly erect bridges on some existing trails.

Some of the public comment incorporated into the proposal deals with access for motorcycles, Villanueva said. For example, a suggestion to connect the top of the Corral Loop to Powerline Road is in the proposal. Another suggestion to connect the top of Mr. Toad’s to Hell Hole Road wasn’t feasible due to conflicting environmental concerns, he said.

“The whole purpose is to create a sustainable trail system that’s low impact to the environment but high quality,” Villanueva said. “We’re hoping to keep these trails around for a long time.”

All the work planned for the Freel/Meiss area is expected to cost about $250,000, but that amount could increase depending on how many bridges are needed.

“I’m very much in favor (of the project),” said Phil Brisack, who volunteers his time to maintain the Tahoe Rim Trail. “It just makes sense to me to stay out of wet areas. Horses, mountain bikers and hikers broaden trails and create more of a problem.”

Trail work in all nine areas of the basin may cost as much as $1 million and be completed by 2008. The work is being funded as part of the environmental improvement program, an initiative that began in 1997 to protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

The Forest Service is aiming to begin construction sometime in June. Additional public comments on its preliminary report are due by Feb. 3. An environmental assessment report will be released before any decision is made.

Trails on the North Shore and the East Shore are the areas next in line for analysis and planning, Villanueva said.

To read a copy of the preliminary report or comment on it, contact Villanueva by e-mail at gvillanueva@fs.fed.us or by post at U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Attn: Villanueva, 870 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Villanueva can also be reached by telephone at (530) 573-2762.

— Gregory Crofton may be reached via e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com


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