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Mr. Toads: trail of the century

Down the steep slopes riders fly, kicking up dust as they go by.

It’s a popular trail on Lake Tahoe’s south shore; to die-hard mountain bikers it’s certainly no bore.

But into a nearby creek the earth erodes; sediment is deposited by loads and loads.



Everyone agrees something needs to be done, but no one wants to take away the riders’ fun.

At last, all feeble attempts at poetry aside, the U.S. Forest Service is fixing and rerouting Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.



“The trail has significantly deteriorated and is causing erosion into Saxon Creek,” said Garrett Villanueva, civil engineering technician for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “The Natural Resources Department and Engineering and Recreation departments are all contributing to this project to curb the erosion problem and enhance the recreation experience. We’re trying to address the concerns of the users to keep it a really cool ride.”

The 7-mile Saxon Creek Trail, as the Forest Service refers to it, was created long ago by cows moving through the woods. Running from the Tahoe Rim Trail to Saxon Creek Road off Oneidas Street, it has evolved into a mountain bike trail known locally and nationally as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

However, since mountain biking’s popularity has grown in the last 10 years, the trail now gets more use than it can handle. Officials are concerned about the water quality of Saxon Creek, which can carry sediment downstream and discharge it into Lake Tahoe.

The Forest Service started working on it three weeks ago. Crews plan to narrow parts that have become too wide, reroute parts that go through the stream, take out hazardous turns, restore the retired trail sections to natural conditions, armor creek crossings with rocks and even building bridges in some places.

“I’ve had zero opposition. I’ve had riders go by and say, ‘Right on,'” Villanueva said.

After Tahoe’s Oct. 15 excavation deadline, limited work will continue as long as weather permits. Villanueva hopes to have crews finish the changes next building season.

Gary Bell, owner of Sierra Cycle Works and spokesman for the Tahoe Area Mountain Bicyclists Association, said the work is highly needed.

“We’re excited about it,” he said. “It does need it. That trail sees a lot of use. It’s one of the more popular trails in the area. Some of the sections of the trail weren’t built for the kind of use it’s getting now.”

Bell said mountain bikers have tried to give the trail at least annual maintenance work. Hopefully that much attention won’t be needed after these upgrades.

“I’m trying to create a 100-year trail,” Villanueva said. “That’s what I tell my crew: ‘Try to make something that will still be here in 100 years.'”


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