June 3 (1976, 1988, 2000)
Trail Easements

6/3/76 as is usual when i camp here, i was awoken by the singing of the black-headed grosbeaks. awoken out of a dream by their sweet clamor.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/3/88 morning, after an interlude sans journal, and possibly much of interest to report, if I were able to remember. To begin with I met again with Forest Service officials last night, along with Gene Markley and Mark Faller, re public access to the high country for skiing and hiking, which has become an issue due to increasingly restricted parking and increasingly wide-ranging commercial x-country trails (i.e., Royal Gorge). I was inspired to suggest that all Royal Gorge special use permits be revoked, an idea which fell on deaf ears, or was dismissed out of hand, one or the other. This meeting arose from telephone calls to TNF in December of last year! TNF, although maintaining many trails which traverse private lands without easement, seems to think my concept that all such trails and roads in the high country have been “impliedly dedicated” to the public, uhm, a bit radical and ill-informed.

I've many letters to write to TNF on this and other subjects. [...] Took Bill to see the waterfalls/pools on N. Fk. of the N. Fk. American and he was duly impressed.

Am working on a rustic chair for Ed, made from cedar loglets.

Various storms have brought rain to the area recently, engendering lush growth in the meadow, where bracken ferns seem about to reach record heights, Iris are in bloom…

I am planning to visit the Royal Gorge itself, soon. Bob Pfister and I worked on the Smart's Crossing trail and road again this year. Several years in a row now we have pruned back branches etc.”

Russell Towle's journal

Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 11:14:04 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: trail easements

Hi all,

Dean Decker of the Folsom office of the BLM informed me a couple of weeks ago that the Stevens Trail and Blue Wing/Fords Bar Trail both have public easements on them, as enacted by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. Subsequently I learned that Wendell T. Robie was one of the principal advocates of these easements. Decker was kind enough to supply the date and ordinance number for the two actions by the BOS. The BOS staff in Auburn sent me copies of the two ordinances.

The first ordinance, #301B of May 11, 1953, is a remarkable document. It lists dozens and dozens of trails and roads, referencing them to various U.S.G.S. maps pubished around the turn of the century. It often specifies section numbers and townships. Among the specified trails are the Donner Trail, the Green Valley Trail, the Stevens Trail, the Blue Wing/Fords Bar Trail, and the China Trail from Lost Camp to Sawtooth Ridge. Copies of the maps were filed with this ordinance. The essence of this ordinance is that all the roads and trails shown on the U.S.G.S. maps specified, are declared public roads and trails, and that it is a misdemeanor to block or obstruct them in any way, save for an unlocked gate to limit ingress or egress of stock.

The second ordinance, #312B of January 11, 1954, (Section 1) repeals all of the first ordinance. It then proceeds to state (Section 2) that "All public trails, public hiking trails, public riding trails, public county trails and public roads situated in the County of Placer, State of California, are hereby declared to be County roads, and subject to the following herinafter provided rules and regulations for the use of said trails and roads."

The sections that follow are almost identical to those concluding the first ordinance, forbidding the closure or obstruction of public roads and trails, except by unlocked gates for control of stock, and declaring it a misdemeanor to close or obstruct a public trail.

I am no lawyer, but it seems to me that by repealing all the specific language of the first ordinance, with its long list of trails referenced to historic maps, and only declaring that all public trails and roads are County roads, the BOS managed to sidestep the issue entirely. As much to say, it is not for the BOS to say what trail is or is not a "public" trail. That, apparently, is left for the courts.

So it would appear to me that there is no formal public easement on the Stevens Trail or on the Blue Wing/Fords Bar Trail, or on any of the trails listed in the first ordinance. Too bad.

I wonder if any provision for public roads and trails was made in the legislation signed by Lincoln making the land grants to the CPRR. Since Robie (I presume) made his list of trails for the BOS in 1953, many of the historic trails have been blocked or obliterated by logging and road construction, both on Forest Service land and on the Southern Pacific railroad lands. Today the old railroads lands are mostly owned by Sierra Pacific Industries.

Other North Fork Trails news:

1. We haven't heard anything from the Gold Run Properties people regarding possible purchase of the Canyon Creek Placer Mine.

2. A list of about fifteen trails, with descriptions, was sent to Supervisor Rex Bloomfield. Rex may be able to interest the Placer Legacy in land acquisition around some of these trails. We are starting to amass photographs of some of the trails and of the North Fork American Canyon, for a more polished presentation of our objectives in preserving and enhancing public access to these historic trails.
[I believe this reference is to the document described and pictured in the May 31 entry, here.]
3. I need a good, 3 megapixel digital camera (Nikon 990, for instance) to help forward this work. I have all the tools to make PDF files and burn them onto CD's for distribution to our elected representatives, and to organizations like the BLM, Placer Legacy, Trust for Pulic Land, Forest Service, etc. But I need a good digital camera.
[Long-time local environmentalist and supporter Bill Newsom did get Russell that camera; the first of several he was able to put to good use over the subsequent eight years of relentless advocacy for the North Fork. ]

Russell Towle

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