Trail Yea! TAMBA, TRTA finish projects despite pandemic, wildfires
Despite the many challenges this summer, including COVID, increased tourism and smoke from wildfires, trail building and maintenance groups feel they had a successful season.
The Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association, Tahoe Rim Trail Association and the Community Mobility Workgroup each started new projects, made progress on or completed existing projects while also performing maintenance on existing trails.
“Like everyone else in the world, 2020 was a crazy year for us,” said Chris Binder, deputy director of the TRTA. “We definitely had a lot of challenges and had to think on our feet and come up with new ways to be successful.”
TRTA had three major projects they were focusing on in addition to regular maintenance.
The first project was a re-route on the section of the Rim Trail where it’s co-located with the Pacific Crest Trail near Echo Summit.
“We’re in the third year of that project, taking the trail away from U.S. Highway 50 so you’re not walking literally in sight and sound of the highway,” Binder said.
He estimates that the project will be done late this season or early next season.
TRTA also picked up on a project in Van-Sickle Bi-State Park that was started several years ago called the K to K trail. When completed, the trail will start at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade, go through the state park and finish on Keller Drive near the Heavenly California Lodge.
Binder said they stayed on target for their three year goal within the state park but completion of the project may take several additional years since they will have to build through private and forest service land.
The final project was on the north side of Tahoe where they worked to re-route the trail that goes to Watson Lake.
“The trail currently runs on the forest service road near the Watson Lake Campground,” Binder said. “So, we took it off the forest service road onto some really nice single track trail so we’re not conflicting with the motorized use on that trail and giving people a better trail experience.”
Binder said that project is nearing completion as well.
Work had to be paused when fire season ramped up. When fire restrictions are in place, TRTA doesn’t use generators, chainsaws, rock drilling or anything else that could potentially cause a spark.
TAMBA had similar success with their projects.
“I would say, overall, we’re really pleased with how we have overcome adversity this year, between COVID and the fires and the smoke, to still get a lot of really good work done,” said Patrick Parsel, trails coordinator for TAMBA. “That’s really a testament to our volunteers who do a lot of work for us out on the trails.”
TAMBA continued work on the Lily Lake Trail near Fallen Leaf Lake which will be a 2.1-mile long trail which connects the Angora Lakes parking area to the Glen Alpine trailhead parking area near Lily Lake. Because of forest closures and smoke, Parsel said they will likely finish the project next year.
The Stanford Rock re-route was another big project TAMBA worked on this year. Stanford Rock is a logging road south of Tahoe City. The road has become very eroded so TAMBA is building over 12 miles of new singletrack to bypass the worst sections of road. Parsel said that the project will be completed this year.
Finally, TAMBA partnered with the Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to improve existing trail conditions and establish a dedicated mountain bike focused connection to the Tyrolean Downhill Trail in Incline Village. The trail will have several mountain bike specific features including, rollovers, tabletops, step-ups, step-downs and triple-option jumps.
Parsel said that the project will need some fine tuning next spring and he hopes for a good winter to help set some of the loose dirt.
Parsel also added that, “work on trails is never really done.”
In addition to those trail projects, both TRTA and TAMBA worked on putting out new signage on the trails.
Work did have to be paused once fire season ramped up. When fire restrictions are up, the groups don’t use chainsaws, generators, rock drills or anything else that could cause a spark.
Within the city of South Lake Tahoe, the Community Mobility Group is also hoping to complete their Al Tahoe Blvd., mobility project.
“This project was many years in the making and now provides safe essential connections between U.S. 50, the Bijou Bike Park, South Tahoe Middle School, Lake Tahoe community College, the community soccer fields, the wildlife center and Pioneer Trail,” said Rebecca Bryson, co-chair of the Community Mobility Workgroup in a letter to the editor. “Many thanks to the city of South Lake Tahoe for completing this project during an extremely challenging year and applying for funding for the multi-use path connection from Johnson Blvd., to the new section of Greenway.”
In addition to the normal COVID challenges, the group also experienced delays in receiving building materials because of the pandemic.
They are hoping to complete the boardwalk on the Bijou Meadows side before winter comes.
Both TRTA and TAMBA experienced a double-edged sword when it came to finding volunteers due to COVID.
With people not working or working remotely, they had more volunteers than ever looking to help but because of COVID restrictions and safety measures, they had to take less volunteers than normal.
Parsel said they worked with the forest service to develop safety guidelines but they couldn’t have volunteers until July so they missed a lot of their early season work.
Instead of having big volunteer days where anyone was allowed, they only allowed up to 10 volunteers and they had to register in advance.
Still Parsel estimates they’ll have over 3,000 volunteer hours logged by the end of the season, which is only a little less than a normal year.
For TRTA, they adjusted how they did projects to meet COVID guidelines.
“The normal way we operate is to pivot from one project to the next throughout the season, giving a big focus in one area then moving to the next,” Binder said. “This year, instead, we just tackled everything at once but with smaller groups so we were sort of able to use that approach to leverage volunteer time.”
Binder is still calculating the volunteer hours for this year but he said anecdotally that even though the number of volunteers was significantly lower than normal, the actual volunteer hours logged was almost normal.
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