Kudos all around preceded the signing of an agreement granting El Dorado County an easement through U.S. Forest Service land along the historical Rubicon Trail.
Both entities issued press releases announcing the ceremony that would take place at 2 p.m. during Tuesday’s El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting. After decades of indecision, confusion over jurisdictional status, lawsuits and a Clean-up and Abatement Order from the State Water Quality Control Board, the new agreement establishes the “who, what, when and where” of the relationship between the county and Eldorado National Forest.
“The easement officially memorializes the trail’s location, El Dorado County’s ongoing maintenance obligation, and most importantly, the public’s right to use the Rubicon Trail,” the county’s statement reads in part.
“The easement was the last major step in formalizing the county’s right of way through the national forest,” Forest Supervisor Kathy Hardy said in the USFS statement. “This is a major accomplishment. But, equally important was the way citizens, county leaders, and the Forest Service worked together to get it done.”
District 3 county Supervisor Jack Sweeney performed the signing honors along with Hardy. Sweeney has advocated for the Rubicon Trail for years and led the county’s efforts to create the partnership with the Forest Service. Coincidentally, it was Sweeney’s great-grandfather, Ellison Crawford who successfully petitioned county supervisors in 1887 to “declare the Rubicon Trail a public highway.” And adding to the festivities Tuesday, Sweeney wore his great-grandfather’s tuxedo for the event.
“The 1887 Board of Supervisors’ decision has not been without controversy, however,” the county statement continues. “Over time a complex combination of local, state and federal law created confusion over the validity of the 1887 decision, the exact location of the trail, and which government agency is responsible for maintenance. Although technically a local road since 1887, the famous trail crosses federal forest land established in 1906, and state regulators have recently expressed concerns about erosion and water quality.” (The Clean-up and Abatement Order issued in 2009)
The county statement goes on to note that “those issues are coming to a close” as a result of the easement agreement.
Sweeney opened the signing ceremony acknowledging the contributions of a full roster of individuals, public agencies, private non-profit groups and even early opponents of the proposed easement. Recently retired county Department of Transportation Deputy Director Tom Celio was first on Sweeney’s list. Vicky Sanders from the Chief Administrative Office, Chief Assistant County Counsel Ed Knapp, DOT engineers Steve Kooeyman and Matt Smeltzer were all acknowledged for their longtime work on Rubicon Trail issues.
Forest Service officials also topped Sweeney’s list. Hardy along with former Forest Supervisor Diane Rubiacco and Regional Forester Randy Moore got the easement project “done in one year,” Sweeney exclaimed. He was referring particularly to an analysis of environmental impacts that was required by the Forest Service prior to completion of the easement process.
John Arenz and Scott Johnston with the Rubicon Trail Foundation were praised for what Sweeney called their “watchdog” role on the project.
Development of the Forest Service’s Environmental Impact Statement includes timelines for public comment and an appeal period during which agencies or individuals who have “standing” (status as significant contributors or stakeholders) can meet to try to resolve disputes and disagreements on issues within the EIS.
The appeal process involved eight appellants ranging from the county to the OHV groups, RTF and the so-called environmental community. The latter included local residents Karen Schambach, Monte Hendricks and Rich Platt, and Sweeney also acknowledged their efforts and cooperation during the appeal process.
Platt explained in a phone interview Wednesday that the appellants generally were concerned with issues related to monitoring trail use during the wet season. And he expressed gratitude to Sweeney for “a job well done” as the county’s representative in the appeal process.
Along with the easement, Hardy’s decision authorized a number of projects in the county’s Rubicon Trail maintenance plans. They include bridge construction and rehabilitation, installation and maintenance of erosion control features as well as installation of six vault toilets along the trail. Portions on or near the trail that have been damaged by improper or over use will be closed for repairs, and the Forest Service has designated 12 areas where vehicles may park out of the trail’s main route.
“Hardy’s decision also includes direction for monitoring activities intended to evaluate the effectiveness of the erosion control features, reduce the spread of invasive species, and prevent harm to cultural resources,” the Forest Services statement concludes.
As he prepared to sign the easement acceptance documents, Sweeney noted that the barrel of the pen he would use was made of wood from an iconic tree that was removed from the Rubicon Trail earlier this year.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or email@example.com. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.