Is trail building hard work or fun? The answer from the field: It's both! Every year, each REI store partners with a local conservation group in support of National Trails Day. The following recap is from our friends at the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, a volunteer, nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization established in 1981 to plan, construct and maintain the beautiful, 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in California and Nevada.
This year's National Trails Day on June 4 was the Tahoe Rim Trail Association's (TRTA) third year working on the trail corridor that will connect Van Sickle Bi-State Park with the Tahoe Rim Trail. This trail connector provides expansive views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada.
This trail was not built by the TRTA alone. For 3 consecutive National Trails Days, in partnership with the REI Reno store, approximately 100 volunteers have worked through the rain (in 2009 and 2011) and sunshine (2010) to help build the trail through Van Sickle Bi-State Park. Volunteers ranged from young to old, and from having zero trail-building experience to being seasoned trail-building volunteers for the TRTA.
Braving the gloomy, rainy weather, the group worked with enthusiasm and cheerfulness to construct more than a 0.5 mile of new trail (including a connector trail specifically for equestrians) and maintain another 1.5 miles of trail. By the end of the day, there were many rain-soaked jackets, muddy shoes and pants, and dirt-grimed faces. However, at the Explore Tahoe after-party, everyone was in high spirits, enjoying hot chili, ice cream and new friends. What a day!
Our work party location, Van Sickle Bi-State Park, will open for the first time to the public this summer on both sides on the California-Nevada state line. It is the first "bi-state park" in the nation, and it boasts an unusual location and history.
Let's start with its location: The park is in Stateline, Nev., and South Lake Tahoe, Calif., which are neighboring communities on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. One community runs right into the next, and visitors might not know when they are exiting one and entering the other. Stateline, known for its hotels and casinos, is part of Douglas County in Nevada, and South Lake Tahoe, known for its incredible skiing, is part of El Dorado County in California.
Opening a park that straddles a state line presents challenges. However, both states decided to jointly develop, and later run, this brand new park. When it opens, Nevada State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy and the TRTA will join forces to manage this unique venture.
Newly constructed infrastructure for the park—including the access drive, utilities, restrooms, picnic sites, trails and trailhead—will enable the park's gate to open for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians to enjoy their public land. The Daggett Summit Spur trail, the Tahoe Rim Trail connector being constructed from the Tahoe Rim Trail at the ridgeline to the park, further expands the park's recreation opportunities well beyond its boundary.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is 165 miles of single-track trail open to hiking, equestrians and, in most areas, mountain biking. The trail encompasses the ridge tops of the Lake Tahoe Basin, crossing 6 counties and 2 states, and overlaps with approximately 50 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. For more than 20 years, the TRTA focused on closing the loop around the ridge tops of Lake Tahoe. Since that goal has been reached, the focus of the TRTA has turned to improving and maintaining the trail and encouraging responsible recreational use on it.
The TRTA also played a large role in the development and initial management of Van Sickle Bi-State Park, as well as the building of the trail infrastructure within the park. The commitments by the TRTA to assist with ongoing maintenance of the park allowed Nevada State Parks to commit more than 3 million dollars in construction funds to develop the infrastructure. The TRTA has secured a generous grant from the Jack Van Sickle Foundation to support some of the costs of operations for 5 years.
The beauty of trail building is that volunteers start with a section of land. They struggle at first to envision how a trail will ever be built, but by the end of the day they can proudly hike on their new accomplishment.
Although the objective of National Trails Day and TRTA Trail Building Work Days is to build trails, the more important outcome is that we are building community and new stewards for Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Photos, top to bottom: Volunteers doing rock work at Van Sickle Bi-State Park; TRTA volunteer Teresa Crimmens; volunteers building a trail; TRTA volunteers Janice Barbour and Chuck Kelley sharing a laugh. Below: Installing a kiosk for the new bi-state park.