By Larry Andresen
Last September, Nevada County initiated a stakeholder workshop meeting process to better understand the issues and opportunities available for recreational planning in Eastern Nevada County, including providing increased public access to the Truckee River. In doing so, the county selected a group of 10 stakeholders to work on developing a direction for the Hirschdale area to be included in the upcoming county recreational planning effort.
The selected group was not intended to be demographically inclusive and was limited for purposes of manageability. My wife and I are Hirschdale residents, living in one of the 13 homes adjacent to the proposed bridge and river access development. We were not invited to participate in the stakeholder workshop meetings.
The final draft report out of the working group recommends development improvements for increased parking and stairway access within the Hirschdale Road right-of-way to provide for recreational river use. (Read Moonshine Ink’s reporting on the working group and its takeaways, Solutions to Hirschdale Recreational Access Issues Proposed, Larger Consensus Not Reached.)
The space of this area and river boundaries is confined to narrow strips of land completely surrounded and bordered by private property and private homes. This stairway and parking development idea would likely result in trespassing, conflictual public recreation use versus private property interactions, and law enforcement and land management issues.
County sheriff services are limited, often unavailable, and response times can take several hours. The riverbank is steep and the water is fast white water, making for difficult portage, wading, or swimming at this location.
Recently, at the April 26 Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting, the board, by recommendation of Community Development Director Trisha Tillotson, approved spending $30,000 of public funds for design and environmental work for stairway access at the edge of the highway bridge amongst private properties and residences in Hirschdale.
Since there is nearby public river access available on California Department of Fish and Wildlife property at 11308 Iceland Rd., doesn’t it make logical sense to recommend improvements and influence public river use away from and out of the Hirschdale community?
This CDFW property on Iceland Road is dedicated for recreational public use and provides access to the Truckee River. This property is accessed by Floriston Avenue, which consists of a 40-foot-wide, dedicated-for-public-use highway.
This public road access is currently open and available, albeit somewhat constrained by one party’s private encroachments. There is about a 250-foot section which I have offered to improve by widening to minimum fire access road width standards, which then would meet conditions acceptable for the county to adopt into its maintained mileage system. I have submitted plans for a permit application to widen this section of road — a permit that is currently pending approval.
In the Hirschdale final draft report, the workshop meeting facilitator concluded that “across the board, the group believed the impact of recreational traffic through the neighborhood (Floriston Avenue to CDFW property) was unacceptable.”
It is not known for what reason and/or by whom it was determined that use of this public road to the CDFW property for recreation was unacceptable. No private property owners living on Floriston Avenue were invited to be included in the stakeholder working group.
There is currently a “Private Road, Keep Out” sign posted at the entrance to this route, which leads people to mistakenly believe that Floriston Avenue is private; it’s not. Perhaps this false representation that one is trespassing through private property is the reason the group concluded that the use of this route is unacceptable?
Signs posted containing false information that deceive the public and result in preventing public use should be removed. Alternatively, an informational kiosk board which includes a map that shows what is public and what is private could help clarify where public river access exists without trespassing on private property. Even though Floriston Avenue is definitely a public road, it has not been included in the Nevada County maintained mileage system.
At the last workshop meeting held on March 2, Tillotson indicated that staff could recommend adding sections of public county roads to the maintained mileage system to accommodate public road management. This would help free up law enforcement to help reduce speed and with traffic control. Adding an improved and widened Floriston Avenue through Hirschdale to the county-maintained mileage system would be a minimal cost burden to the county, as it is only about one-seventh of a mile long.
Other benefits of using the CDFW river access is that it does not cross Union Pacific Railroad tracks or private property, and no property acquisitions or construction development are necessary.
This CDFW property contains gentle sloping and flat terrain up to the river and large, open riverfront space, which allows river access use to spread out. Here, the Truckee River is slow moving and user-friendly for putting in and taking out rafts, kayaks, and floats.
Why would Nevada County spend thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to promote and provide public river access in the middle of numerous private properties and directly adjacent to private residents along the edge of the highway?
Ask District 5 Supervisor Hardy Bullock, who took part in approving county funding for this stairway development project, and Tillotson, who requested funding for this project. Ask why the county does not focus on improving parking and river access at a property that is dedicated for public recreation and river access use.
Please send your comments, questions, or concerns to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City, CA 95959, along with Trisha Tillotson, community development agency director.
~ Larry Andresen is a local excavation contractor, residing and working in Truckee with his wife, Cheryl, and three children since 1978. He has donated improvements for Truckee Elementary School’s athletic fields, to the Excellence in Education Foundation, is a founding member of the Truckee Trails Foundation, and has provided road maintenance for Floriston Avenue and Iceland Road over the past 30 years.