Corridor officially to open as a ‘trail’

By From page A1 | October 09, 2013

It may have looked like belaboring the obvious, but El Dorado County Supervisors on Oct. 1 decided to call the trail that follows the old railroad route from Missouri Flat Road to the county line an actual “trail.” Toward that end, the board directed county staff to prepare an ordinance formally declaring the trail to be open to the public — but with limitations on how the public may use the space known officially as the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor.

Basically, motorized vehicles whether motorcycles, ATVs or Off Highway Vehicles will be banned along the entire length of the corridor and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department will have the heretofore non-specified authority to enforce such an ordinance. District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting, whose district includes much of the corridor, told fellow supervisors that noise from off-road vehicles has become a major nuisance to residents with property adjacent to the route. He described trying to talk to constituents recently but being interrupted by excessively loud motorcycles and dirt bikes. He also said those vehicles are responsible for destruction of some of the roadbed.

Without restrictive legislation, “the sheriff can’t enforce anything,” Nutting said.

Over the past several years, the Board of Supervisors has made a number of rulings to authorize the corridor as a multi-use public facility allowing certain railroad activities, hiking, biking and equestrian use. From Missouri Flat Road east to Camino, the route is mostly a developed Class I bicycle trail, excluding a stretch from Ray Lawyer Drive to Clay street in Placerville. From Missouri Flat to Shingle Springs, the corridor combines excursion rail with the other non-motorized activities. From Shingle Springs to the county line, the board has limited the trail to hikers, bikers and equestrians with a limited number of exceptions for excursion rail events through December of this year.

The El Dorado County Transportation Commission has tentatively won a grant from the California Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive study of multi-modal uses for the route, according to commission director Dan Bolster. Excursion trains and equestrian use were not originally authorized in the grant, but Caltrans followed the commission’s recommendation to include those modes as they have already been approved by the county.

Reminding the board and the public that local taxpayers have already spent nearly $3 million to acquire the right of way and recognizing its region of benefit as Sacramento County, city of Folsom and El Dorado County, Bolster asked rhetorically, “What is the best use of the corridor?” The grant, with work set to begin in February of next year, will help address that question.

Unlike meetings in the past dealing with the corridor that pitted the so-called trail people against the “train guys,” Tuesday’s discussion centered on formally establishing and opening the corridor to the public for the uses specified by earlier board decisions.

The transportation corridor and subsequent El Dorado Trail were established partly under the federal Rails to Trails program which encourages jurisdictions to convert former railroad rights of way to “temporary” other uses by the public. The program is intended to preserve the routes and rights of way for re-conversion back to rail use, if  future commercial railroad operations were to become feasible once more. Hence the concept of temporary use for trails. Realistically, a return to commercially viable, heavy railroad transportation is a remote possibility in most areas.

Friends of the El Dorado Trail (trail people) have worked in concert with the El Dorado Western Railroad (train guys), a subbranch of the county’s Historical Museum to carve out areas of responsibility for maintenance and upkeep on the corridor and a recent “Adopt a Trail” assignment formalizes their volunteer activities along the corridor.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.

Chris Daley

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