Plans for an official trail to the top of Nevada City’s iconic backdrop, Sugarloaf Mountain, have been put on hold following a Planning Commission meeting decision to explore more trail options to appease neighboring property owners. Trail organizers from the Bear Yuba Land Trust have spent the past two years trying to secure trail easements through private property along the lower portion of the trail in efforts to connect a pathway from downtown Nevada City to the top of the city-owned Sugarloaf Mountain.
The majority of neighboring residents to the proposed trail were not in complete opposition to the trail, but wanted organizers to explore an option where the lower portion of the trail would be located further away from their backyards.
“I think we would have to go back and discuss this at the board level,” BYLT trails volunteer Greg Archbald said regarding the request to relocate the lower section of trail.
“My recommendation is that the commissioners set up an investigation where the neighbors can see a compromise with the trail being pulled away from the property lines,” Archbald stated.
“The (homeowners) would be open to a six-month extension,” neighboring resident Justin Sternberg said to the commissioners, in order to allow for more trail negotiations.
“Putting the trail through the eastern side is where you do it. There’s already a large human footprint there,” Sternberg said, adding that a trail along Highway 49 would be needed eventually as part of a safety standard.
“An eastern alignment would require two more easements and could take another two years of negotiating,” BYLT trails coordinator Bill Haire said during the meeting.
“This could set the whole process back a year,” Archbald reiterated.
Commissioners expressed their concerns to appease the neighboring residents.
“Did you explore an eastern alignment, and what was the process of exploration?” Commissioner Steffen Hawkins-Snell asked the members of the land trust.
“This has been a long process to get us where we are,” Haire explained to the commissioners. “We wanted to start from the stoplight. First, (we) attempted securing an easement with the property owner there. These discussions went on for two years before giving up on those. We were never able to secure an easement there, at that time we sort of came to a halt. We didn’t want to put it in the highway easement. If that was the only option, we could have done that. The land form is such that there is quite the difference in elevation. In addition, another landowner would need to be consulted as well as using the most valuable portions of those properties.”
Ultimately, commissioners decided to put the trail project on hold for 90 days to allow the property owners and the land trust to come to a consensus on the lower portion of the trail.
“We do owe it to those homeowners to deal with the project. The other thing to keep in mind is that there was overwhelming support of the trail,” Commission chair Dan Thiem said.
“Even though the neighbors were in support of it, they just need some time,” Hawkins-Snell reiterated.
CLICK HERE to see original article and photos in The Union newspaper.