Placer County supes OK key Hidden Falls trail connection

Connector properties link county park near Auburn with nearby preserved properties
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Key pieces of the puzzle in a long-range vision for a non-motorized trail system located on wildland and ranch property in the foothills northwest of Auburn are now in place.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday at a meeting in Lake Tahoe to acquire two properties totaling 18 acres, as well as concessions on fencing from another property owner that will provide the direct link between the county’s 1,200-acre Hidden Falls Regional Park and the 1,773-acre Harvego Bear River Preserve overseen by the non-profit Placer Land Trust of Auburn.

The properties, east of Hidden Falls, are being acquired as the county prepares to open an expanded Hidden Falls park in late May, increasing acreage to 1,200 from 220 and trail mileage from seven to 23.

While the new link between the two open-space areas does not signal an immediate opening of a trail between the two large properties, it represents the culmination of a decade of efforts by several groups - including the county, the local land trust and willing landowners - to create a potential network of trails expanding from Hidden Falls off Mears Road.

Mary Dietrich, Facility Services Department assistant director, said Wednesday that the three separate transactions approved by the board will now be finalized by the county’s property management division.

“These are critical properties and are going to be such a valuable asset to properties in the land trust and owned by Placer County,” Dietrich said. “It’s a big day - a culmination of a lot of effort on a lot of folks’ part and a wonderful collaboration of agencies.”

A total of $290,600 in land costs, as well as conservation and access easements, were approved. The county had initially made offers totaling $224,000.

The county agreed to pay Rodger and Pamela Haddad $165,600 for 11.04 acres and access rights over a private road. Appraised value was initially $88,250.

Purchase of a 6.5-acre parcel from Donald and Valerie Campbell was approved at $125,000. Also part of the price were access rights over a private road and a 5.4-acre open-space conservation easement. The original assessed value was $92,890.

The county also agreed to build a gate and fencing along Hubbard Road resident Lois Loudon’s property line to protect cattle and wildlife at an estimated cost of $7,400.

Jeff Darlington, executive director of the Placer Land Trust, said his organization is supporting the newly established link between the two areas. By bike, on foot or via horse, the trail between the two large parcels is expected to meander for about 7.5 miles, he said.

“It’s a huge step forward,” Darlington said. “The overall vision for this area is a trailhead at Coon Creek (in Hidden Falls park) and another near the Bear River.”

Darlington said the trailhead location from the Bear River has not been determined or funded. Dietrich said that no county planning has started on developing a trail on the Hidden Falls side along what are being called the connector properties.

Darlington said the land trust will be working on a funding campaign to help build the trails.

“We’re going to ask the community to fund the effort to make these trails a reality,” Darlington said.

The land trust executive said that a property-purchase price of less than $300,000 is a good value because it is leveraging millions of dollars already invested on nearby open-space purchases and development of Hidden Falls.

Total cost is $325,000, which includes title and escrow fees as well as the cost of professional and legal services. A total of $288,315 is coming from open space fund reserves. The other $36,685 will be paid out of the county’s tree mitigation fund.