David Galson, skiers at Royal Gorge.

David Galson, skiers at Royal Gorge.

From the Desk of Perry Norris, Executive Director

During a Truckee Donner Land Trust Board retreat 25 years ago, a fearless group of conservationists did one of those exercises start-up organizations often undertake: dream big and reach for the stars. The result of this exercise was a regional map with dozens of outlined parcels — targets for future acquisition.

It’s a fine line between “bold plans” and “wishful thinking,” but what the Board imagined then — an audacious vision — is darn close to reality two decades later.

There’s a saying in mountaineering that “It’s better to be lucky than good.”  I can’t help but think how lucky the Land Trust has been. A helluva lot of great conservation has been achieved — no question — but part of the success resulted from being in right place at the right time. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine acquiring Webber Lake, Lower Carpenter Valley and Royal Gorge, to name a few. 

Right out of the gate in 2019, we are excited to announce that the Land Trust is working with the Squaw Valley Public Service District to acquire Olympic Meadow. The roughly 30-acre property represents a unique opportunity to preserve open space in the heart of the valley, including a stretch of Squaw Creek. Beyond that, we anticipate announcing another major acquisitions before spring, similarly in an "urban" setting, where open space taken for granted, but its disappearance and conversion to condos would be conspicuous.

In the throes of the Campaign to Conserve Frog Lake, Red Mountain and Carpenter Ridge (going very well, and thanks to those who have stepped up to support this critical project) we are dreaming big about new backcountry huts. Backcountry skiing is booming, and who doesn’t relish the idea of a cozy snowed-in hut, turns awaiting out the door?

The Land Trust’s truly remarkable stewardship team is busy this winter studying maps and planning new trails. Major headway be will made in planning the last major piece of the Donner Lake Rim Trail over Schallenberger Ridge next summer. The trailhead, trails and other cool amenities are in the works for Lower Carpenter Valley so that we can open to the public in 2020.

Finally, we anticipate completing the state-mandated lowering of the dam on Van Norden Reservoir. The Land Trust inherited this debacle when it purchased Royal Gorge in 2012. The dam's safety is in question and it is illegally impounding water in drought-ridden California. The good news is that the restoration of beleaguered and impaired Van Norden Meadow is now underway. A high-five to our partners at the South Yuba River Citizen’s League and the United States Forest Service for their great work.

On the operations side of things, the Land Trust Board and Staff would like to give a big, heart-felt thank you to our outgoing board members — Anne Chadwick, Jim Hoelter and Tom Van Berkem. The contributions these three have made to the Land Trust are immeasurable, and they will be missed. At the same time, we are excited to welcome Sidney Scott to our Board of Directors. We look forward to working with Sidney on all the exciting work laid out before us in 2019.

Greyson Howard