Connected Communities: Gateway to the Lost Sierras

It’s no secret that in the heyday of gold mining and lumber, extraction industries in the Sierras thrived due to the abundance of natural resources and the essentially non-existent environmental concerns. However, in the absence of these once-thriving industries, a new player has entered the game. And it’s sustainable! Outdoor recreation has been a rejuvenating industry to communities throughout Plumas and Sierra counties, once again putting them on the map for visitors from around the world. The Downieville Classic, along with the multi-use trail systems winding through the wild beauty of the Sierras have outdoor enthusiasts visiting year-round. Hunting and fishing remain constants while winter snowmobile action is heavy throughout the mountainous areas of the county as well. However, it still holds true that the communities throughout Sierra and Plumas counties are struggling to maintain year-round economic growth, local jobs, and tourism revenue. Greg Williams and the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship have been brewing a plan to enhance the attraction of outdoor recreation enthusiasts to the area, continuing to bring life back into the Lost Sierras and boost year-round economic flow into our communities. Their plan is to connect fifteen communities throughout the Sierras via a multi-use trail system. The Trails Master Plan, or TMP, is focused on creating a vision for recreation-focused lifestyle, community investment, shared stewardship, economic opportunity, and creating local jobs to benefit the economies of disadvantaged communities in Sierra, Plumas, and Lassen counties. 

The proposed “Lost Sierra Trail Route” traverses over 300 miles over breathtaking topography, jagged peaks, and high alpine meadows similar to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT). But unlike the PCT and JMT, this new trans-Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range route allows for all dirt trail travelers including hikers, mountain bikers, moto riders, equestrians, trail runners, hunters, fishermen, wildlife, grandmothers, and babies in backpacks. The Lost Sierra Route will be a trail for all to use that will link mountain communities together for recreational adventure and economic sustainability. The intention of the trail system is to identify areas within communities where trail access would create additional benefits.  Areas such as schools, neighborhoods, campgrounds, parks, retail centers, and trailheads (new and existing). Having these trail systems connected to “Main Street” is ideal, as it brings visitors into town for restaurants, accommodations, and services, and allows convenient access to public lands for residents.

The project aims to create new recreational opportunities, in collaboration with fuels management and watershed protection projects, that will spread high-intensity use into underutilized areas of the National Forest still with environmental impact in the forefront of route planning. They will be assessing conditions and identifying priorities in order to utilize and maintain existing trails, trailhead facilities, and access roads located throughout Plumas, Lassen, and Tahoe National Forests. Their efforts also aim to build strategic alignments for Shared Stewardship and create employment, training, and apprenticeships for disadvantaged adults and youth, bringing partnerships and investment to our public lands through the Outdoor industry channel. In the process, the Trail Stewardship will begin to identify unclassified National Forest roads and trails which may be decommissioned and restored to a natural condition in an effort to clean up our forests. 

Plan for the construction and maintenance of a world-class multiple-use trail system intends to connect the northern Sierra communities of: Truckee, Loyalton, Sierraville, Sierra City, Downieville, Quincy, Graeagle, Portola, Taylorsville, Greenville, Jonesville, Chester, Westwood, Susanville and Reno NV. The main proposed route is being referred to as “The Lost Sierra Route”, paying homage to the region and the historic Gold Rush-era mail delivery route. The TMP will also provide a repeatable process/template for other rural communities wanting to collaborate with government agencies and stakeholders and for land managers to make informed decisions and prioritize projects based on the needs of the community. 

This project is intended to empower communities but not without the input of the communities themselves! On Tuesday, December 13th, a meeting was held by the Sierra County Visitors Bureau with several of the county’s lodging and business owners in attendance for the presentation by Williams. It ended with unanimous excitement and support for the project.  The Trails Master Plan is being developed through community input and will allow residents to collaborate with land managers and local government officials on a long-range vision for building and maintaining a world-class recreational resource on public land. You can voice your opinion by taking the Connected Communities survey either online at their website sierratrails.org or in person at participating venues. Just look for the Connected Communities survey booklet in your community! 

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