Two-state park in the works
Three white-tailed deer scampered through the Gondola Fire zone Tuesday, marking hope of renewal for Nevada State Parks authorities surveying their future investment.
The Silver State’s parks service, seeing gold in those hills, plans to team up with California to form their first bistate park on both sides of the gondola line where fire scoured the landscape.
The concept of the bistate park is still being developed but has no formal plan as yet. The park appears to be five years away from throwing open the gates where Jack VanSickle kept his ranch, but it’s only about a half-year from public workshops to discuss the idea.
VanSickle donated 542 acres to Nevada 13 years ago, and the California Tahoe Conservancy closed escrow in May on 155 acres for $3.8 million. With 28 acres Nevada already owns, the proposed “VanSickle State Park” would encompass 725 acres.
Various chunks of land were burned in the 670-acre fire, with 243 acres consumed from Nevada State Parks and 17 from the Conservancy. The U.S. Forest Service was estimated to have lost the remainder in the blaze, measured as a “moderate” intensity fire.
“It could have been a lot worse. Most of the sites likely to have recreational facilities — like the picnic areas — will not be affected,” parks Chief of Planning Steve Weaver said. “I thought all this area would have been burned, and it wasn’t.”
The state agency toured the site with two concerns: Erosion exacerbated by downed trees and insect problems prompted by weakened trees.
The hardwoods appeared to receive more damage than the pines and firs, Weaver discovered while tearing the bark off a burned pine tree.
“This one looks more hopeful,” he said.
Pines fared better than firs in the fire, as the cambium layer protected the core of the trees. This inner layer carries the sap up and down the tree.
“We’re very pleased it was a ground fire,” Weaver said.
After evaluating the fire damage that climbed 30 feet up the trees, the Nevada parks staffers, including Administrator Wayne Perock, concluded the two state park agencies would be able to proceed with their intentions. This requires a three-way agreement that includes the Conservancy.
Initial plans call for a trailhead and trails, camping that possibly includes recreational vehicles, and an interpretative center in the 140-year-old barn if it holds up structurally.
At first glance, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency supports the idea, Deputy Director Carl Hasty said.
“I’m excited about the plans. It will give people an escape from all the commercial (development) downtown,” Perock said.
Perock hiked up to an orange marker located under gondola towers 11 and 12 on Conservancy property that signified the origin of the fire, while pointing out nearby debris.
“We’re just lucky this thing didn’t get away from us,” Perock said.
He and Weaver, along with Deputy Attorney General George Taylor and Nevada State Parks Superintendent Brad Kosch, were joined by Forest Service archeologist John Maher at the fire site.
Maher inspected the area to determine the effects of log-skidding channels set during the Comstock period contributing to erosion problems.