Donkey Town: The Trials, Tribulations, and Closure of Our Beloved Trail

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By Matt Chappell

Spring thaw has set in, marking many trail openings throughout the Tahoe National Forest. However, during this season, like several preceding, it’s safe to expect closures, logging activity, forest thinning, and compartmentalized trail access throughout many of our coveted trail networks. As soon as June 10, the popular Donkey Town Trail, aka Jackass Trail and El Burro Trail, aka A-1 Trail, was scheduled to close for the remainder of the 2024 season for forest thinning with the intent of a 2025 spring reopening.

Donkey Town is a series of smooth, rolling trails consisting of Donkey Town Trail and El Burro Trail which were sanctioned by the Truckee Trails Foundation and U.S. Forest Service in 2014. Since 2020, the Truckee Dirt Union (TDU) has implemented an excess of 4,500 volunteer stewardship hours into Donkey Town Trail, which has been bulldozed and rebuilt decade after decade for 30 years as covered multiple times in Moonshine Ink archives. In recent years, TDU has crowd raised enough money to pay and support four part-time trail builders to continually improve the riding conditions in Donkey Town. TDU remains optimistic that a 2025 rebirth will once again improve the Donkey Town trail network.

TDU has been planning to rise to this moment by creating a “build trails back even better” proposal. TDU is working to improve access to Truckee’s coveted trail networks and has been collaborating with the USFS Truckee Ranger District and California State Parks for several years.

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TDU created a 650-person volunteer support network to lessen the resource burden needed to build and maintain sustainable trails. Modern mountain bike trails are shaped and reshaped day-after-day, not too dissimilar from a ski resort’s terrain park or world cup ski course. This is where TDU provides a much-needed bridge to close the resource gap with volunteer labor, creating a sense of belonging and pride within the outdoors through a shared hand in stewarding public land. The results are proving successful — just go ride Donkey Town Trail to see for yourself.

Truckee Dirt Union created a draft proposal over the past four years built from on-site brainstorms and discussions with USFS Truckee Ranger District staff members, Truckee Trails Foundation, local riders, businesses, Truckee Donner Land Trust, state parks, and many others, including the High Fives Foundation.

From a data perspective, TDU tracked 28,000 ride laps in 2023 from May to November, averaging 186 ride laps per day throughout the season on a short 4 miles of sanctioned trails. The desire to spread riders out to mitigate overuse, improve sustainability, accessibility, and connectivity to other key projects in town is a goal of TDU’s.

Even though TDU has worked collaboratively and diligently over the past four years to create a compelling, community driven resolution for trail access challenges, a proposal will not officially be considered by USFS until the ever-important forest thinning project completes. At that time, a Donkey Town Trail Improvement Proposal will be submitted by TDU.

You can view and add your personal endorsement to the draft Donkey Town Trail Improvement Proposal at truckeedirtunion.org/donkey-town.

To find alternative ride route recommendations, listen to the Single Track Report on KTKE Truckee-Tahoe Radio. You can find archived reports at truckeedirtunion.org/singletrack-report.

~ Matt Chappell moved to Truckee in 1997 on a winter’s dream, and for the past 14 years has led the design team at OLAB, a Truckee-based visual design studio located in Gray’s Cabin. In 2020, he became a founding member and is now executive director of the Truckee Dirt Union, a passionate group of local mountain bikers who are working to cultivate singletrack radness in Truckee.

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