TRTA and TAMBA continue trail building efforts in Tahoe Basin
January 9, 2018
Trail options in the Tahoe Basin are growing and changing (responsibly) and more paths are on the way.
The Tahoe Rim Trail Association and Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association both completed substantial projects last year and have big plans for 2018.
Among TRTA's many projects, the largest involved hundreds of volunteers and trail builders who finished a ¾-mile reroute to move a section of trail off a dirt road. TAMBA linked neighborhoods when it added 5 miles of mulit-use trail in the Angora burn area, and it will continue its pursuit in 2018 to connect a track around Lake Tahoe.
TRTA finishes one reroute, takes on another this year
TRTA executive director Morgan Steel is on the trail a lot, "pretty much every weekend." She takes pride in the appearance compared to other trails she has visited.
She helps with maintenance, brush clearing, building, you name it, she's putting in the work on the trail. She was on hand all summer during the association's reroute near Mott Canyon. The TRTA completed moving ¾ mile of trail off a dusty road and onto more suitable, exciting, hiking terrain.
It was a difficult, technical pursuit. Specialists were called in to figure out a way to build the trail and mitigate risk for workers. At times a rotary hammer was used to split massive granite rocks.
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"It's one thing to give a volunteer loppers and say go clear brush off the trail, it's quite another thing to say, 'OK, now we're going to turn on this rotary hammer and drill a hole into this 2 ton boulder and then we're gonna put wedges in it and split it apart.' It makes for a challenging time for volunteers to come back again," Steel laughed. "But our organization is small and scrappy and we do what we do because of the community support. It's amazing."
Overall, the organization had about 350 volunteers who contributed over 17,000 hours that helped maintain over 180 miles in the trail system.
TRTA will begin another trail transformation when the snow melts, which may be earlier than normal this year with low snow.
The Echo Summit reroute is almost twice as long, 1.3 miles, and will be a multi-year project. A section of the Tahoe Rim Trail parallels the highway, just feet away, and it collects a lot of garbage. The TRTA is partnering with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Eldorado National Forest to make the change.
The project is nearing the end of the extensive permitting process.
It's another job that is expected to be difficult with much granite to move. It could require explosives.
"Clearly we enjoy moving heavy rocks," Steel said. "Where the trail should go is not always the easiest place to put it. But it's the right spot. I think it's exciting and people will really enjoy having that new experience. We're constantly trying to keep up with trends. We're a world-class destination here and we want to feel like our trail reflects that."
The TRTA also is partnering with the Forest Service to assess hazard trees near the parking lots and trail.
The association removed a whopping 673 trees that fell on the trail in 2017, after the near-record snowpack melted.
Steel pointed to the four years of drought that contributed to a serious tree mortality problem in the Sierra Nevada. The basin has been spared somewhat compared to other areas, but there are still issues.
"We've been kinda spared from some of the big impacts from the drought, but we're still monitoring that, especially if this low snow trend continues, it'll continue to be a problem," said Steel, who's an avid skier both at resorts and in the backcountry.
Steel also says the big projects are a highlight for everybody, but all the annual maintenance that has to happen "is a big effort that kind of goes unnoticed."
In the last year, TRTA also launched a new website; continued to expand its youth programs with a full-time employee now running weekly camps in the summer; and in October became the first two-time Tahoe Chamber Blue Ribbon geo-tourism award winner for its efforts in helping satisfy 400,00 annual trail visitors.
"Overall, I feel we had a really good year and I feel like we're on a great trajectory," Steel said.
TAMBA rolling through, into projects
TAMBA began work on linking Angora Lake and Fallen Leaf Lake residents on June 24, the 10-year anniversary of the Angora Fire that consumed over 3,000 acres, destroyed more than 250 residences and threatened South Lake Tahoe.
Roughly 200 volunteers and 70 trail builders worked into October to compete the association's biggest project of the year.
TAMBA continues to grow substantially, said chairman and president Ben Fish. For the first time, the group hired a full-time employee and also had staff at Bijou Community Park.
"One person can handle all that stuff volunteers aren't eager to do," Fish said. "We're growing and trying to transition from all-volunteers and become more effective."
In 2017, TAMBA had 351 volunteers who produced over 4,000 hours of trail building, planning and advocacy.
Highlights of last year include more jumps and berms on the highly-popular Corral Trail; rebuilding a section of the Valley View Trail near Tahoe Mountain; upgrades at Bijou; partnered with the TRTA, Friends of Incline Trails and the Tahoe Fund to upgrade Incline Flume Trail on the north shore; worked on Elevator Shaft trail reroute in Tahoe City; and partnered with the state parks for the first time and started work on a new trail in Burton Creek State Park in Tahoe City.
TAMBA's biggest project this year will come on the North Shore at Kings Beach. The group will put in a new mountain bike specific trail with features like jumps and berms.
Other projects include multiple trails near Fallen Leaf Lake, improvements to Stanford Rock Trail in Tahoe City, construction of the new Tamarack Lake Trails near Mount Rose summit; construction of new trail in the northwest Reno area; continued maintenance on several popular trails and continued work with the Forest Service on environmental approvals to continue the quest for a track around the lake.
"We do continue to work on alignments with the Forest Service to try and link up trails," Fish said. "Our goal is to build a new trail all the way around the lake."
Editor's note: This story was part of the Tribune's annual progress edition. Check out the e-edition here.