Wilderness Busting New Direction for Lands Around Former Auburn Dam Site - Placer County Targets American River's North Fork Canyon for Development

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Hikers, River Rafters, and Equestrians are all expressing worry about plans to develop a remote wilderness area in the American River canyon north of Auburn. This Tuesday, the Placer County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a proposal to build a 6 foot wide bike route 14 miles up the North Fork canyon of the American River near Auburn. The bike trail is one of two major proposals to develop the American River Canyon scheduled for hearings next week. Extensive real estate development within the canyon has also been introduced into to the Foresthill Divide Community Plan that is also being reviewed next Thursday by the Placer County Planning Commission.

Hikers, River Rafters, and Equestrians are all expressing worry about plans to develop a remote wilderness area in the American River canyon north of Auburn. This Tuesday, the Placer County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a proposal to build a 6 foot wide bike route 14 miles up the North Fork canyon of the American River near Auburn. The bike trail is one of two major proposals to develop the American River Canyon scheduled for hearings next week. Extensive real estate development within the canyon has also been introduced into to the Foresthill Divide Community Plan that is also being reviewed next Thursday by the Placer County Planning Commission.

"Instead of dam gates, we have a rush to open the floodgates for development after last month's state hearing on revoking Auburn Dam water rights," said Michael Garabedian, president of Friends of the North Fork. "Bike routes on the public lands and housing on private parcels not purchased by the federal government for the dam are a new gold rush."

Tuesday the Placer County Board of Supervisors will accept final public comment and vote on the proposed North Fork Trail. Thursday the Placer County Planning Commission will review a plan to increase development throughout the Foresthill Divide including the canyon. Against the advice of county staff, on Monday the Foresthill Municipal Advisory Council voted 4-2 to recommend that the county include the massive Forest Ranch development in the Foresthill Divide Community Plan. Both proposals are opposed by Friends of the North Fork, a citizen group actively involved in restoring and cataloguing the natural and cultural resources of the canyon, which has proposed alternative approaches.

The North Fork Canyon of the American River is visited by over a half a million people a year to hike, camp, fish, raft, kayak, inner tube, swim, ride horses, as well as watch birds and other wildlife. Because of its outstanding values, much of the canyon has been found eligible for "Wild and Scenic" status by the National Forest Service.

As described in the Jordan Fisher Smith Book Smith Book, Nature Noir, lands within the canyon became a remote natural area after the Bureau of Reclamation bought up most of the land in planning for the Auburn Dam. "Now the county Facility Services division wants to take this treasure and develop it," added Garabedian.

Friends of the North Fork is especially concerned about the environmental harm caused by cutting the proposed trail into the steep canyon walls and the severe conflicts between mountain bikes and other trail users. A major concern of the group is the likely traffic impacts of greatly increasing use of Ponderosa Way by people, vehicles, bicycles, and the trail equestrian staging area. It is a poorly maintained mostly dirt and gravel road that runs from Weimar into the canyon and back up to Foresthill Road. No analysis has been done for the traffic impacts on existing streets and roads. A key concern is the location of the trail. The trail would begin at the confluence, but, instead of alternate routes, would run above the level of the hypothetical reservoir.

"It's time to seriously reassess the proposed route," said Garabedian. "It's proposed at the Auburn Dam reservoir level since the BOR opposes putting it below the Auburn Dam take line. This results in the proposed route being on the steepest side canyons, with some side slopes over 70%"

Friends of the North Fork board member Catherine O'Riley pointed out, "The original proposal for a four-foot wide route was destructive of the canyon and too dangerous on the steep canyon walls to allow for mixed biker, hiker and equestrian use. The new six-foot wide proposal is also unworkable. We support alternate routes and separating different user groups on existing and new trails up through Clementine Reservoir. Hikers and equestrians need only a narrow path."

Information on the full bike trail proposal.

Iinformation about proposed Foresthill Community Plan

The North Fork American River flows near Auburn, California.

For media inquiries contact:
Michael Garabedian, President
Friends of the North Fork
916-719-7296
mikeg@gvn.net

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Michael Garabedian
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