How You Too Can Help Restore Trails in Our National Forests

Just north of Truckee, California, the Commemorative Emigrant Trail running along Alder Creek is a recreational gem. That wasn’t the case for its namesake wagon-trail emigrants, in particular the ill-fated Donner Party, trapped there by the Sierra’s heavy snow in the deadly winter of 1846-47. The wheels that roll here today are those of mountain bikes, pedaled by residents from the greater Tahoe area as well as visitors from Reno, Sacramento, the Bay Area and elsewhere.

Known simply as the Emigrant Trail, this 15-mile creekside section is one of the first to melt out in the spring and features a mellow grade. “It’s one of the trails that families enjoy to first expose their kids to mountain biking,” said Kim Carr, California Director for the National Forest Foundation (NFF), a nonprofit that partners with the U.S. Forest Service and local groups to enhance and protect national forests.

Alder Creek lies within the Tahoe National Forest. Conifers, aspen and willow offer native habitat for all kinds of wildlife in the scenic Alder Creek basin, which sits at an average elevation of 6,000 feet. Over the years, spring snow melt often flooded out the popular mountain biking trail. Banks became eroded and vegetation was lost. Two years ago the trail was relocated up away from the creek, allowing restoration of the riparian ecosystem to begin to take place.

However, a 1.4-mile segment of the trail remains difficult to traverse due to boggy areas and braided creek crossings. This summer, the NFF will make good use of a $200,000 donation from REI to complete the trail, part of a larger donation, up to $1 million,* that the co-op is making to the foundation. A contractor will be hired to construct two bridges, one 75 feet in length and the other 65 feet, spanning Alder Creek. Mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and equestrians alike will be able to keep their feet dry—and critical frog habitat untrampled—as they enjoy the view of the water below. And, volunteers will be recruited to help plant native species along the creek and do erosion-control work.

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Photo of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Brandon Levinger, courtesy of the NFF

Well-loved by many groups, the Emigrant Trail along Alder Creek is somewhat unique.

“A couple things make it stand out to us,” said Marcus Selig, NFF VP of Field Programs. “The trail is designed specifically toward the mountain biking community, which isn’t very common on national forest lands.” And, he explained, “The project is a great example of sustainable recreation—providing a well-designed trail that creates exceptional recreation opportunities, while protecting the ecosystem.”

In addition to working with the U.S. Forest Service and local contractors to complete the bridges, the NFF also plans to partner with the Truckee Trails Foundation to organize the volunteer opportunities.

If you’re interested in volunteering on the Emigrant Trail this summer, and perhaps taking a spin down the path of history, you’ll have two chances: Wednesday, August 2, and Saturday, August 5. Learn more and sign up here.

Did you know?

Each time REI members make a purchase with their REI Co-op Mastercard, REI will make a donation to the National Forest Foundation—up to $1 million.* As the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, the NFF works to restore and enhance ecosystems, trails, rivers, campsites and more in our treasured national forests. If you’re a cardmember, you can feel good knowing your purchases help make initiatives like this project possible.


*REI will donate $0.10 per REI Co-op Mastercard purchase transaction made between 4/1/2017 and 12/31/2017 to the National Forest Foundation, up to $1 million. Non-Purchase transactions, including cash advances, convenience checks, balance transfer, and other advance transactions as defined in the Cardmember Agreement, as well as interest charges and fees, do not qualify. Transactions occurring in late 2017 may be donated in 2018. REI may change the benefit or named charity in future years. REI is solely responsible for making the donation.

The creditor and issuer of the REI Co-op Mastercard® is U.S. Bank National Association, pursuant to a license from Mastercard International Incorporated.
©2017 U.S. Bank ©2017 Recreational Equipment Incorporated. All rights reserved.

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