Magazine article American Forests

Trail and Teamwork on Tahoe's Rim

Magazine article American Forests

Trail and Teamwork on Tahoe's Rim

Article excerpt

Like a necklace around a beautiful woman, this trail is a-building through a partnership that benefits all parties. "I believe we need to look at innovative partnership arrangements, in which the private sector and recreation groups team up with government. The Forest Service is ready and willing to work with other members of the recreation community, in partnership, to develop the potential of the National Forests. "

F. Dale Robertson Chief, U. S. Forest Service AMERICAN FORESTS, March/April 1988

Recent history shows that Forest Service Chief Dale Robertson is on solid ground in encouraging partnership projects on the National Forests. Many have proven to be very successful. The Tahoe Rim Trail is one such project that has made great strides in a relatively short time, has been recognized at Forest Service headquarters in Washington, DC, and is used as a model for recreation partnerships by agency officials.

The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is a volunteer project that was set up to plan, construct, and maintain a 150-mile hiking and equestrian trail along the ridgetops surrounding Lake Tahoe-the nation's largest mountain lake-that straddles the California-Nevada border at an elevation of 6,225 feet just east of the Sierra Nevada crest.

The TRT route includes 50 miles of existing Pacific Crest Trail west of the lake, much of which passes through California's Desolation Wilderness. Volunteers have built 40 additional miles of new TRT since construction began in 1984. The brilliant blue water of Tahoe, covering 191 square miles, is visible along much of the trail route. Short spur trails to nearby knolls will offer sweeping vistas of the Tahoe Basin, framed by the granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada on the west and the darker-colored, volcanic Carson Range to the east. The trail winds through forests of lodgepole pine, jeffrey pine, and red fir, and crosses meadows colored by wildflowers in early summer and fringed with the bright gold of quaking aspens in fall. The trail crosses historic pioneer routes and passes tree carvings made by Basque sheepherders who once grazed flocks on the mountain meadows. Winter snows that force hikers and equestrians from the high-country trail bring new opportunities for cross-country skiers.

Since its inception as an idea just nine years ago, the trail project has continuously gained momentum. In 1983, the Tahoe Rim Trail Fund, Inc. (TRTF), a non-profit corporation guided by a volunteer board, was organized to administer the project, recruit volunteers, and raise funds. Now with over 1,000 dues-paying members, the TRTF has raised several hundred thousand dollars and evolved into a very efficient and productive organization.

Good organization is a big asset for the TRTF, especially in dealing with the many jurisdictions in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The trail route crosses three National Forests, six counties, two states, and is subject to planning and permit approval from the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The Forest Service's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), the TRTF'S public-sector partner for the trail project, is well acquainted with the jurisdictional web. The LTBMU was formed as a special unit to manage the lands of the three National Forests within the Lake Tahoe watershed. Ninety percent of the TRT route is on Forest Service land, and coincidentally, the trail closely follows the LTBMU boundary. In addition to the TRTF/forest Service partnership, the project involves a second partnership between the TRTF and the Nevada Division of State Parks, which manages five percent of the land along the trail corridor.

Both public agencies have written agreements with the TRTF that delineate responsibilities. Basically, the agencies assume responsibility for compensating volunteers for injury and for protection against tort claims. As needed, they provide specialized tools and equipment, and technical assistance in areas such as route planning, environmental assessment, and trail construction methods. …

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