On the eastern edge of Truckee, tucked next to the Glenshire neighborhood, lie just over 280 acres of forested hills and spacious meadows. Here, the rumble of semi-trucks on Interstate 80 is entirely muted and wildlife takes center stage.
The land is divided between two owners. Christopher “Chip” Huck, with three partners in Oregon, owns the 219 or so acres of the Martis Peak Road property while Paul Curtis and his former wife, Christy, claim the remaining 70-ish acres, known as the Edinburgh property. (Casually and collectively, the area is known as Canyon Springs after a previous development project proposed 177 single-family and 26 affordable-housing parcels alongside commonly owned open space.)
Up until mid-2020, Huck and Curtis offered their land up as a blank recreational canvas for those aware of the private properties’ offerings — people would run, walk, cross-country ski, mountain bike, and more across the land. Curtis himself, who lived adjacent to the land for many years, said he spent his own time doing just as much; he called it his playground.
“I’ve never had a problem with people being on my property,” Curtis told Moonshine. “What I do have a problem with is people ripping up my property.”
Leisure on the Martis Peak Road and Edinburgh properties this past year resulted in a leap beyond the norm: the creation of illegal mountain bike trails and thus an alarm bell sounding not just for the property owners, but a local nonprofit that’s been working to prevent development on the sites for 33 years. The unified work of these often opposing sides is founded on a concern of environmental degradation and a lack of ethics.
One mountain bike trail led to “one of the scariest mountain biking jumps I have ever seen,” said Alexis Ollar, executive director of Mountain Area Preservation, “with broken twigs and branches and cut logs. I thought, if anyone were to go over that, they would probably break their neck, hurt themselves, and sue [Huck].”
Many of the newer trails no longer exist in full — Huck hired a contractor to dismantle them (and offered his own helping hand). Logs were removed and dirt piles spread out, though some stretches of the once-upon-a-time paths can be seen through layers of pine needles and bushes. However, while strolling the property in mid-October, Curtis pointed out more than a couple trails criss-crossing the main thoroughfare that he’d never seen before. For the most part, none of these trails included log or jump features; they simply existed as dirt cleared of any brush.
Ollar said that from a stewardship perspective, such disregard for the land makes her job at MAP significantly more challenging: Huck and Paul, as private property owners, see the degradation and say, “‘Hey, you guys want to conserve this as open space [but] look at what the community’s doing to it’ … In some ways it threw a new, big, large stick in the middle of the trail for us because it’s like, wow, this is a hurdle for us that we didn’t assume. My goal was to continue to pursue open space conversations in 2020, not deal with user issues out there building new trails.”
The discovery of such trail-building attempts led Huck to put a blanket closure on his portion of the land. “We closed it off,” he explained, referencing the ‘no trespassing’ signs now dotting the boundaries of his land. “I want to make it abundantly clear that we’ve done so because of this destruction … Before, it was like, it’s so obvious that we should all have that expectation: People should just respect other people’s property, period.”
In addition to dismantling the trails, Huck also brought on a patroller to walk the property and stop and educate people who are trespassing.
“We feel that when, in a sense, we can tell that degradation and destruction have stopped, then we’re open to discussions [on reopening],” Huck said. Curtis didn’t take as stringent actions. Moreso, he says, he’s seeing how things go.
Adrian Juncosa has lived in Glenshire for 25 years and has spent the past month and a half as an appointed board member on the Glenshire Devonshire Residents Association. He hasn’t stumbled across trail-building himself on Huck’s and Paul’s properties, but has often heard the use of ATVs and snowmobiles since the mid-1990s.
Of the recent mountain bike trails, Juncosa said, “My guess is that it’s one person or some small group of people rather than any concerted thing. There’s a lot of mountain biking trails in the area. People in the real mountain biking community here definitely don’t want to do anything to reduce access anywhere, whether it’s public land or private land that takes a laissez faire attitude.”
Part of that “real mountain biking community” is Craig Olson, who owns the front 5 acres of the old Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village (where Flume Trail Bikes and the Tunnel Creek Café are located, at the start of the East Shore Trail), and spends much of his time mountain biking the Tahoe Basin and beyond. He hasn’t ridden through the Glenshire trails this year, but has spent time on them in the past.
“I’m not certain who built them,” he said. “Some of the trails are not bad, they’re okay. Kinda fun to go on … Not built to 21st century standards, per se.”
One particular trail is built along the fall line, Olson recalled, meaning the most downhill route of a hill, and the path rain and snowfall might take — not ideal for any trail user due to steepness of grade and likelihood of creating erosion.
“But of course, the newest generation of bikers are getting out there earlier, younger,” he said. Regarding mountain biking features, “they’re big into the jumps and everything else.”
In an official capacity, Denyelle Nishimori, community development director with the Town of Truckee, said the town isn’t likely to get involved in private-property trespassing at this point.
“It is a challenging situation,” she said. “The town really doesn’t have a huge role in trespassing unless it becomes a life safety issue — so, someone’s doing illegal campfires or using firearms … But it’s not typically like this scenario where it sounds like people are cutting trees down and doing something like that.”
For town staff to get involved in the future (on any private land), Nishimori said it’d be a council decision on whether staff might take anything on.
The Glenshire-adjacent property isn’t the only piece of land seeing a response to COVID-19’s encouragement for folks to opt outside. The Truckee Donner Land Trust had its own busy summer on its lands and trails.
“It was definitely a busier-than-usual summer for users based both on observation by our stewardship crew in the field and feedback from folks who reached out to us,” wrote Greyson Howard, communications director with the land trust, in an email. “We did see an increase in litter, had some folks breaking the rules here and there unfortunately, and generally more wear and tear for our stewardship team to stay on top of, but overall I’d say it went well.”
As for the unlikely trio, while alignment is unified on people respecting the land, the properties’ futures remain unclear. Curtis, Huck, and Ollar are closely following development of Truckee’s 2040 general plan, which will play an important part in what the future of the property looks like. Currently, Martis Peak Road property and Edinburgh property have two land use designations.
“There’s the recreation and open space land use designation that covers the drainage areas that are out there,” Nishimori said, “and then it also has another land use designation for a residential half-unit to one dwelling unit per acre.”
The most recent project (known as Canyon Springs), submitted by Curtis and Huck in a joint agreement, was withdrawn in 2018.