Sunset Ranch is gone |

Sunset Ranch is gone

The horses are gone. The snowmobiles are gone. Even the buildings are gone.

Soon the Sunset Ranch and its 189 acres of land along the Upper Truckee River will belong to the California Tahoe Conservancy – and the public.

“They are working to satisfy all the conditions to allow escrow to close,” said Bruce Eisner, acquisitions manager for the Conservancy. “It could be anywhere from a couple of days, at this point, or it could be even longer.”

Conservancy officials have been working for months with the American Land Conservancy and Sunset Ranch to buy the land, which borders on U.S. Forest Service and Lake Tahoe Airport properties and holds about 1 1/2 miles of the Upper Truckee River. The Conservancy’s governing board in October approved the expenditure of $2.5 million for the transaction.

“The land will be in public ownership, and we anticipate initiating some basic water quality measures and site restoration work as soon as possible,” Eisner said. “We also anticipate, in the near future, starting a planning process to come up with a long-term management strategy for the property.”

The property is a key wildlife habitat for bald eagles, black bears, deer and other animals, according to the Conservancy.

The Sunset Ranch has had decades of public and private recreation use, providing areas for equestrian and snowmobile use. It was a yearly stopping point for the Highway 50 Association’s historic Wagon Train. Cattle have grazed there, too.

All that has stopped, and most of the existing buildings have been removed. Amacker Construction and Supply, based on Sawmill Road, was contracted to demolish the main buildings and haul out the debris. The work was completed Monday. Only a small well pump house and perimeter fencing remain.

The property – 76 percent of which is classified as Stream Environment Zone – has meadows with disturbed soil, roads and trails that cut into the meadows and river banks needing restoration.

“There are impacts from the horses and the cattle and the several miles of trails crisscrossing the property,” Eisner said. “There are a lot of disturbances. Is it irreparable? Certainly, I wouldn’t think so.”

ALC provided an additional $500,000 for the deal and is making the initial purchase of the property. The Conservancy is purchasing the land from the ALC for $2.5 million.

Robert Henderson, office counsel for Sunset Ranch, said he felt all parties involved were pleased with the deal.

“This was a price we felt was appropriate and fair, and, with the help of the ALC we were able to make a deal,” he said. “I think it’s a very nice piece of land, and I think it will be an asset to the state of California.”

Since the beginning of its operation in 1985, the Conservancy has purchased more than 5,000 parcels of land on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The agency preserves and restores environmentally sensitive parcels of land to help restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe, enhancing wildlife and providing recreational opportunities when the land can handle it.

The Sunset Ranch parcel will be one of the largest South Shore purchases the Conservancy has made.

“I think it’s exciting,” Eisner said. “Everything is falling into place.”

– Tribune staff writer Christina Proctor contributed to this report

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