Currently, heading west on South River Street in Truckee brings you to an abrupt ending of pavement. The casual dirt trail beyond the cul-de-sac hints at the nature ahead, and often enough, people trudge through, never mind the no trespassing signs.
Truckee Donner Land Trust is looking to change that lack of access through its proposed riverfront park in downtown Truckee. Its focus is on the 26.33 acres south of the Truckee River, formerly known as the Bright Property or Truckee Springs.
Creating this park will contribute to “what makes Truckee Truckee,” explained Greyson Howard, communications director for the TDLT. “Far-flung places [typical of land trusts] are really important for many, many reasons: habitat, watershed protection, forest health, public access and recreation. But this really brings our mission right into the heart of Truckee, where, if downtown is the character of Truckee, so is open space.”
The TDLT has so far raised $2.5 million of the needed $10 million through a California Natural Resources Agency grant ($1 million), Town of Truckee commitment ($500,000), and past TDLT transfer fees from development proposals ($1 million). Plans project the land trust closing at the end of January 2021 — a doable timeline, said Howard.
Ultimately, it’ll be close to a 50-50 split between public and private funding, and the TDLT has a few grant applications in the works for the remaining public funding chunk. But the key difference between private funding for this project and past ones comes with the location. Far-flung TDLT projects like Frog Lake get outside interest from folks in the Bay Area and beyond; this one might not have the same appeal for those parties.
“This is going to need to be more locally driven rather than second homes or visitors,” Howard said. “We expect them to be involved and interested, but I think it’s really going to be the locals who are the motor this time around as opposed to bigger, outside interests.”
The Town of Truckee’s West River Site development adds another variable to the equation. Located just west of Riverside Drive and, ahem, Moonshine Ink headquarters, development is proposed for the “Old County Corp Yard,” 1.42 acres in the works to become a public park.
Six million of the $10 million budget will go to property purchase; the remaining $4 million will go to park amenities (spur trails, picnic tables, etc.) and a bridge spanning the Truckee River to connect the two future parks. To the TDLT, this bridge is where opportunity really spikes.
“The easy solution is to build a utilitarian bridge … like you see around town,” said Perry Norris, executive director of the TDLT. “A lot of the folks in the community think, well, wait a minute, there’s an opportunity here to do something more, and to really make the bridge a work of art or destination in its own right … We’d like it to be a landmark symbol of the community.”
In a way, the park is already serving as a uniting symbol for Truckee. By purchasing the Bright Property, landlocked Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife property farther west becomes accessible.
“This’ll open all that up not only for the Legacy Trail to continue on up the river, but for general public access,” Howard said. “Truckee Trails Foundation is talking about using that connection in the future to be able to go up the ridge to connect to the Sawtooth Trail, which then connects to the Big Chief Trail, which connects to the Tahoe Rim Trail. This property creates so many connections from east to west, north to south, downtown to the river. It’s just a really big connecting piece, a missing puzzle piece in a lot of ways.”
Norris said he doesn’t foresee major opposition to the project, and doubts anyone will come forward begging for a development instead. To him, this project is a rallying point amid Truckee’s rapid rate of change. And regarding development, he says it’d be too expensive and most likely yield million-dollar-plus homes, doing nothing to assist the housing crisis.
On the conservation side of things, Howard ensured there are ecosystem function and habitat benefits with the project, including maintaining uninterrupted wildlife movement corridors, preventing impervious surfaces common to development, and preserving plant life.
The project is a community campaign rather than a land trust one, and Howard said the TDLT brought together a small campaign committee for naming purposes. For now, the group rallies under the current campaign name: Truckee Springs.