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Granite Chief Wilderness Trail Reroute

Granite Chief Wilderness Trail Reroute Project Receives $800,000 Award Through Great American Outdoors Act.

The Western States Endurance Run (WSER) is pleased to announce that the U.S. Forest Service – American River Ranger District (USFS) has secured $800,000 in funding for the Granite Chief Wilderness Trail Reroute Project (Project) through the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).  The USFS, the Western States Endurance Run Foundation (organizers of the WSER), and the Western States Trail Foundation (organizers of the Tevis Cup Ride), worked together over several years to develop and gain approval of a plan for non-motorized alternative trail access through Granite Chief Wilderness (the Wilderness). Planning activities culminated in a 2019 Decision Memo, issued by the USFS, that formalized the decision to proceed with the Project.

The trail through the Wilderness that WSER uses on race day stretches from approximately miles 4 through 10.5 of the WSER course. Although the western portion of the trail through the newly expanded Wilderness has been recently rehabilitated and meets current USFS trail building specifications, other portions of the existing trail through the Wilderness were developed long before modern trail building criteria and techniques were defined, while other portions of the trail were created by citizens (social trails) that are not within the formally recognized trail network. The existing trail alignment is problematic with regard to both user safety and resource damage. In places the trail is overly steep with grades up to 30%, and over time have become heavily rutted and channelized, contributing to excessive erosion in sensitive sub-alpine riparian terrain. For decades volunteers from WSER and the Tevis Cup Ride have partnered with the USFS to maintain the trail through the Wilderness, but because of its design, or lack of design, it has required an increasing level of commitment. 

The Project is designed to close sections of the existing trail that have unsustainable grades that traverse a series of hillside springs (bogs) and replace these trail sections with sustainable trail segments that will be farther upslope and out of the densely vegetated area where the springs discharge. The Project has been divided into nine trail segments (see figure), and will result in 5.7 miles of new trail, along the ridge connecting Granite Chief, Needle and Lyon Peaks. New trail segments will access alpine terrain that has not previously been accessible, which will afford stunning views to the south, east, and west. When completed the new trail system will allow recreational users the opportunity to walk, run, or ride shorter loop routes from both the east and northwest side of the Wilderness. New trail segments will be designed using Best Management Practices to minimize erosion and be safer for all users. Unsustainable sections of the existing trail will be closed and vegetation in the affected area restored.

On a typical year the project area is covered by snow from October to June, and therefore field work can only be performed during summer months. The Project has been scheduled for the summers of 2022, 2023, and 2024. A 20-person professional trail crew will live in the Wilderness and work 5 days each week, for a total of 14 weeks. On weekends volunteer trail crews will perform work commensurate with their skill level. For the summers of 2022 and 2023 access has been arranged with the Palisades Tahoe Resort, and trail workers will use Palisades Tahoe maintenance roads to bring supplies and personnel into the Wilderness from the east. For the summer of 2024 access will be from the northwest edge of the Wilderness using Forest Service Road 51.

Craig Thornley, Race Director for WSER, states: “I have been very excited about this new trail since I first walked it a few years ago. It will not only provide a more environmentally sensitive and sustainable way to traverse the Wilderness and substantially improve the views, but because the new route across the Wilderness will be shorter it will allow us to make other changes farther down our event route to incorporate more single-track and sustainable trail sections.”

Chuck Stalley, the Ride Director for the Tevis Cup also supports the project, as “it will provide safer passage for our horses and their riders and require less annual maintenance.” 

Matt Brownlee, the USFS District Trails Manager, is fully committed to the Project “This exciting new trail realignment project will require three years of hard work but will provide years of public enjoyment while at the same time protecting sensitive resources in federally protected wilderness. This project was originally identified in 1993 due to accelerated erosion and lack of trail design parameters but didn’t gain traction until 2016 when myself/WSER/WSTF representatives began initial ground-truthing. Obvious terrain and construction hurdles will make this a logistically challenging project but will benefit the American public for years to come. A mentor of mine used to say “just go out there and make it better”, I truly feel that’s what we are going to accomplish with this legacy project and I welcome any and all who would like to be part of it.”

The USFS has estimated the Project will cost $1,350,000. With $800,000 in GAOA funding, there will be $550,000 in uncovered costs. The WSER is presently pursuing other grants that would reduce the amount of uncovered costs and will start fund raising to further close the cost gap.

WSER/WSTF Volunteer Steward Program Announcement

The Western States Endurance Run Foundation (WSERF, organizer of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run) and Western States Trail Foundation (WSTF, organizer of the Tevis Cup), in partnership with the American River Ranger District and Truckee Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), wish to announce the creation and implementation of a new model to maintain and improve the trail(s) used by both events.  The new Volunteer Steward Program, modeled after successful approaches used to maintain the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail, will rely on relatively small well-trained and highly committed groups of volunteers to maintain and improve the Western States and Tevis Trail system.

Although the courses for the Western States Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup vary in certain areas, they share the same trail over the majority of their 100 mile reach.  Both organizations have a long history with respect to use of the trail system, and have individually and in partnership built and maintained much of the trail that exists today.  Therefore it makes sense to draw from the resources of both organizations to create a focused and efficient system for trail maintenance and improvement.

This new system of trail management will be lead by John Catts (WSER finisher and volunteer, and equestrian), with support from Nicole Wertz (Tevis Trail Manager).  To facilitate trail management, the Western States trail system has been segregated into eight Trail Sections.  Each Trail Section has a designated Trail Section Lead, and these Section Leads are currently in the process of assembling their respective Trail Section Teams.  With a defined management structure and designated Section Leads our goal is to work closely with the USFS and ASRA to identify trail maintenance needs, and work with the USFS and ASRA to both maintain the trails and plan and implement special projects.

The Trail Sections and Trail Section Leads are as follows:

  • Robie Equestrian Park to Watson Monument – Jim Mather
  • Watson Monument to Red Star Ridge Aid Station – Craig Thornley
  • Red Star Ridge Aid Station to Robinson Flat – Kynan Matz
  • Robinson Flat to Pacific Slab Mine – Mark Falcone
  • Pacific Slab Mine to Foresthill – Chaz Sheya
  • Foresthill to Rucky Chucky/ Poverty Bar – Tim & Austin Twietmeyer
  • Rucky Chucky to Browns Bar Trail at Quarry Road – Jay Marsh
  • Browns Bar Trail at Quarry Road to Finish Lines – Kassandra DiMaggio & Andy Mayo

  Although a number of our Section Leads have current chain saw and first aid (with CPR) certification, we have set up training classes to keep our Section Leads and their core team members current with their training, and to provide training for those not yet certified. We have encouraged our Section Leads to participate in trail crew leadership workshops.  With a higher level of training and skill our Trail Section Teams should be able to more efficiently respond to trail related issues, and help plan and implement both regular maintenance and special projects over a greater portion of the year. 

With respect to entrants selected to participate in the Western States Endurance Run, and their mandatory volunteer requirement, the WSERF and WSTF want to continue to encourage participants to give back to our community, so the volunteer requirement will remain in effect.  Although there may be fewer opportunities to fulfill an 8-hour volunteer requirement on the Western States Trail system, there will likely be a one or two trail work opportunities each year that will be advertised on the WSER (wser.org) and Tevis Cup (teviscup.org) webpages.  These events will likely be special projects where we need greater numbers of people to move or place materials.  We will still organize the Robinson Flat Trail Work Campout and Celebration (June 21/22, 2019) to complete trail work in the High Country in advance of WSER and the Tevis Cup. And you are encouraged to join one of our Trail Section Teams by contacting a Section Lead or John Catts (trails@wser.org).

In addition there are many other opportunities to help our trail community, by volunteering your time to either do trail work or work an aid station or vet check (see the WSER and Tevis volunteer pages).  As an example The Canyons Endurance Run has already planned local trail work days on April 13/14, May 11/12, and July 6/7, with signup at ultrasignup. Because this is a shift in how the WSER and Tevis Cup trails have been maintained in the past (a handful of core individuals and a number of large volunteer days), it will take some time to optimize our new Volunteer Steward Program. So please feel free to join a team, provide constructive feedback, or participate in our Robinson Flat Campout to learn how you can help.

Granite Chief Land Purchase Completed

With escrow closed, 10,000-acre purchase area near Granite Chief Wilderness opens to public, preserving Tevis and Western States events on historic Western States Trail

 AUBURN, Calif. – A year-long fundraising and negotiating effort to help the American River Conservancy purchase a strategically vital 10,000-acre parcel for public use has been completed, the Western States Trail Foundation and the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Foundation announced on Tuesday. Escrow for the $11 million purchase of old-growth forest and mountain meadows near Granite Chief Wilderness and the Western States Trail closed late last week.

“Both of our boards are extremely pleased that this acquisition has been finalized,” Western States Trail Foundation president Tony Benedetti and Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Foundation president John Trent said in a joint statement. “Opening the entire 100 miles of the Western States Trail to hikers, runners and equestrians has been one of the overriding goals of this effort. Now that this 10,000-acre area has been acquired by the ARC and is no longer a private holding, the public is the clear winner. Both the Tevis Cup 100-Mile Ride and the Western States 100-Mile Run will now have perpetual guaranteed access to the last privately-held section of the Western States Trail, ensuring no disruption for the future of either event. In addition, the acquisition now enables the United States Forest Service to complete its National Trail designation for the Western States Trail.”

The ARC, of Coloma, Calif., having partnered with Northern Sierra Partnership of Palo Alto, Calif., and the Nature Conservancy earlier this year, was able to reach its fundraising goal of $11 million in late July. Through fundraising and matching efforts of their own, the Western States Trail Foundation ($250,000) and the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Foundation ($100,000) contributed to the ARC’s total.

“We are so appreciative for the generosity the Ride and Run communities have shown over the past year,” Benedetti and Trent said jointly. “Our stakeholders have recognized the importance of this project. They’ve stepped up to the plate with donations, and with their overwhelming support in making sure we were able to cross the finish line for this project. It’s been quite an effort over the past year to organize, to raise money, and to make sure that the interests of our stakeholders were well-represented throughout the entire process.”

The 10,000 acres, located immediately west of Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley, Calif., had been previously owned by a timber investment firm. It includes 1,200 acres of mountain meadow and is considered a vital part of the State and Federal water delivery system to 23 million Californians. The area includes four “blue-ribbon” trout streams and three popular trails, including the hiking/running and equestrian trail used by the Tevis Cup and Western States 100 events, as well as the Picayune Valley Trail.

Western States Trail Foundation

Western States Endurance Run

 

 

 

ARC Granite Chief Fundraising Update

Dear Western States stakeholder,

It has been a few months since our last update regarding the Granite Chief fundraising campaign that Western States embarked upon last fall with the Western States Trail Foundation (“The Tevis Cup”) and the American River Conservancy.

Here is the latest news:

Western States has successfully met its fundraising goal of $50,000. Your contributions, matched by the Western States trustees from our reserves created for purposes just as this most vital one, produces a total Run community support exceeding $100,000. Thanks to all of you for the generosity and interest you’ve shown in this effort. Your support is yet another example of the wonderful community and truly remarkable spirit that envelops all aspects of the WS 100.

According to the American River Conservancy, about $7.5 million of the overall fundraising goal of nearly $11 million needed for the Granite Chief acquisition has been achieved. The project’s deadline (escrow closure with the present owner) has been extended until July 31, which will allow ARC to complete the effort toward its fundraising goal. The ARC is now partnering with the Northern Sierra Partnership, of Palo Alto, Calif., and the Nature Conservancy, to advance the project, which we hope to achieve by the end of July.

On behalf of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees, thank you again for your generosity in helping move this important initiative forward. We will of course continue to keep you advised of further developments.

Sincerely,

John Trent
President
Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees

ARC Granite Chief Expansion

Dear Friend of Western States,

The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run needs your help.

In July, it was announced that the American River Conservancy (ARC), a non-profit, 501(c)(3) public-benefit organization based in Coloma, Calif., had signed a purchase contract to acquire 10,000 acres of mountain meadows and old-growth forest at the headwaters of the American River. The purchase area, located immediately west of Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley, has long been considered by our board to be the most strategically vital area in ensuring that the Western States Trail remains open and accessible for all public recreation for years to come. Once completed, the ARC’s purchase will join together two existing roadless areas, the Wild and Scenic North Fork American River and the Granite Chief Wilderness into a large block of contiguous protected land. The Western States Trail crosses this 10,000-acre of private land. Our board strongly believes that purchase of this land will guarantee the availability of these trails to hikers, runners, and equestrians, and enable the 100 miles of the Western States Trail to qualify for National Trail designation. We’ve agreed to help ARC in the next phase of this effort, which will include fund-raising for the $10.167 million purchase price from the parcel’s private owners. The Western States Endurance Run Foundation has pledged up to $50,000 to match donations made by friends of our organization.

Hodgson's Cabin Near WS Trail

Hodgson’s Cabin Near WS Trail

Against this backdrop, we are seeking your support. Please consider a donation on behalf of this historic effort to ensure that the “high country” portion of the Western States Trail remains open to the public in perpetuity. Deadline for donations in support of this effort is March. 1, 2015. One hundred percent of all donations will go toward the purchase price of $10,167,000, and, if for any reason the American River Conservancy fails to raise sufficient funds to acquire the subject property, then 100 percent of the donations will be returned to the donor. To make a contribution, please go to the Western States website at the following link. https://www.wser.org/granite-chief-wilderness-campaign/

To find out more about the ARC and the acquisition, go to arconservancy.org. Thank you in advance for your consideration regarding this project and your much-appreciated support of our race.

Sincerely,

John Trent
President
Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees