The storied history of the Western States Trail begins as far back as the pre-historical era with fleet-footed Native Americans traveling back and forth over the Sierra Nevada gathering and hunting for food, along with various tribes bartering trade on the western slope with those on the eastern side. During the early to mid-1800s American explorers, settlers, and gold seekers from the eastern United States made their way across the Great Plains and the Great Basin Desert with some who sailed around Cape Horn to what would later be called California. Following the discovery of gold near Coloma, California, in 1848, the rush of hundreds of thousands of would-be miners and entrepreneurs in 1849 had made the difficult journey overland by foot, horseback, mule, oxen-pulled wagons, or horse-drawn stage coaches to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Express Riders of Wells Fargo and Adams Express Companies traveled by horseback in the foothills along the American River, providing much need communication and supplies to the mining camps and towns that had sprung up during the Gold Rush.
The Western States Trail, the historic route as it is recognized today, became known for being the shortest route over the Sierra Nevada used by miners from the northern gold mines of California’s Mother Lode to and from the Comstock Lode of silver mines in northern Nevada. Today, the Western States Trail is one of only a few remaining trans-Sierra trail routes that is largely untouched by development and, for the most part, remains much like what the early-day users would have known. Currently this trail is home to the annual, world-renowned endurance equestrian event begun in 1955, the Western States 100 Mile One Day Ride (the Tevis Cup) and the internationally celebrated ultra-marathon Western States Endurance 100 Mile Run established in 1974.
The documented history of this trail between Carson City, Nevada, and Sacramento, California, along with relevant artifacts stands ready for display and interpretation in the proposed Western States Trail Museum. It is the intention of the Western States Trail Museum, a California Non-profit Public Benefit Corporation 501(c)(3) organization, to create a financially stable, evocative, well-staffed museum that is overseen by a responsible, functioning board of directors and will remain a legacy for generations to come.
The proposed public/private partnership arrangement with the City of Auburn for the prospective museum site in the historic Central Square at 1103 High Street in Auburn, California, required the development of a Business and Operational Plan, which includes the cost of tenant improvements necessary to meet the expectations from the City of Auburn (owner of the building) and the needs of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, an existing tenant. In addition, the Business and Operational Plan guides the board and various committees as it relates to the operation of the museum and its organization, including financial resources, human resources, board of directors’ development and governance, fundraising, marketing, and museum mission, vision and values. Milestones have been established with reasonable target dates for improvement completions. Estimates will be obtained for needed tenant improvements including remodeling an area for museum displays, multi-media audio/visual theater room, gift shop, etc. Estimated costs are being determined for fully funding such improvements as well as operational costs via potential revenue streams and by fundraising efforts including, but not limited to, memberships, corporate sponsorships, private and public grants, monetary and in-kind donations from individuals as well as corporate and non-profit organizations, etc. The museum organization is working on establishing a hosted website at www.wstrailmuseum.org where the public can view museum plans, updates and pertinent information including community events, monetary donations, in-kind contributions, volunteering, etc.
With the valuable input and support from City of Auburn’s Mayor Pro Tem, Ms. Alice Dowdin Calvillo, who currently serves as the Auburn City Council’s appointed liaison to the museum’s board of directors we have accomplished the following:
- On July 26, 2021, the Auburn City Council approved an effort to pursue an exclusive negotiation agreement (ENA) with the museum organization.
- On Monday, September 27, 2021, the Auburn City Manager updated the City Council with the progress made in establishing the museum including the proposed exclusive negotiation agreement for their review and approval. The Auburn City Council voted upon and approved the ENA that serves as the first big step in establishing the museum.
As a result, we are currently negotiating the lease agreement with the City of Auburn. As part of this process, we are conducting an independent site assessment to identify needed improvements. In addition, architectural design concept plans are expected to be completed by the end of June 2022. Now that we have a target to shoot for, our Business and Operational Plan, which includes financing and funding plans, will be submitted to the Auburn City Council along with the results from the property condition assessment and proposed lease agreement for their consideration.
The museum board of directors have been meeting on a regular monthly basis and are busy developing plans and policies that will help to facilitate the establishment of the museum. Their vision is to educating the public about the trail’s heritage through exhibitions, in-person educators, hands-on experiential displays and trips, artwork and music that pertain to the trail, guest speaker series, donated artifacts, etc. A digital presence will hopefully be on display on our future website address at www.wstrailmuseum.org. As a result, there is much more to come.
If you are interested in knowing more about the museum and how you might help, we would like to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to contact us via Facebook, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to us at:
Western States Trail Museum
Post Office Box 7715
Auburn, California 95604