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Mountain bikers lose Tahoe Mountain access

Amanda Fehd

Forest Service lawyers are looking at an easement agreement on private property near Tahoe Mountain Road to determine if mountain bikers can continue to use the old dirt road passing through the property.

The easement’s lack of clarity rose to the surface when conflicts occurred between the property’s new owner and trail users.

When it became clear they were no longer welcome, representatives of the Tahoe Area Mountain Bicycling Association approached the Forest Service to look into a reroute, which could take several years to develop.

“That trail’s been there for a very long time and that’s what we’ve always used,” said Gary Bell, owner of Sierra Cycle Works, who helped start the organization, but is not currently active in it.

The Forest Service presently has an easement on the property. But it’s unclear whether it’s only an administrative easement or one which includes public access, according to Garrett Villanueva, trail program manager at the Forest Service.

After meeting with the present owner and mountain bikers, he sent the issue to Forest Service lawyers to be reviewed on Thursday.

“It’s private property. Don’t make any assumption that there’s public access because that is undetermined,” Villanueva said.

“The previous landowner really didn’t mind that people were crossing the property,” he said. “That person owned it for a quite some time, and the public got used to that recreation pattern.”

Mountain bikers have been approached by the present owner in a negative way, Bell said. He hoped for a better way to figure out a solution than conflicts at the site.

“We try to be accommodating and work together,” Bell said.

Monica Kohs – who bought the property in December – told the Tribune on Thursday that “based on documents I received when I purchased the property, there is no right of public access across my property.”

She declined to comment further on the issue.

The property is 15.65 acres and has an assessed value of $1.3 million, according to El Dorado County assessor’s office. Kohs’ tax bill does not have a homeowner’s exemption, which means it is not her permanent residence, according to the office.

The trail is not listed on Forest Service maps, and Bell and Villanueva said it is primarily known to locals as a convenient, quick workout on a scenic and slightly technical route.

The easement connects Forest Service land and has traditionally allowed cyclists to reach a user-created trail to the top of the mountain.

Lingering snow on other popular trails may have induced more usage on this trail early this year, Villanueva said.


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