Volunteers sought to repair trails damaged by American fire

Tahoe National Forest officials have reopened parts of two popular trails damaged in August by the American fire and are seeking volunteers to help rehabilitate the remaining trail segments.

The Western States Trail is open between Michigan Bluff and Deadwood Cemetery, and OHV Trail Loop 6, also known as Forest Service Trail 11E44, is open west of Deadwood Ridge Road.

The entire fire area, including all trails and roads within it, will remain closed for public safety until May 1, said Gwen Ernst-Ulrich, forest spokeswoman.

The fire, northeast of Foresthill in Placer County, burned 27,440 acres within the forest’s American River Ranger District and surrounding properties, including three historic buildings at the Pacific Slab mine.

Eighteen of the 25 miles of the Western States Trail damaged by the fire have been rehabilitated, Ernst-Ulrich said, and efforts are underway to winterize the remaining seven miles to minimize erosion.

Since 1974, the trail has been the site each June of the internationally known Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn and, in August, the Tevis Cup Endurance Ride.

The remaining damaged seven-mile segment, between Last Chance and Deadwood, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes two fire-damaged bridges across the northern portion of the middle fork of the American River canyon.

“The (ranger) district is looking at alternate routes for these events if the swinging bridge that crosses the river is not able to be used in time,” Ernst-Ulrich said. “Thousands of other recreationists use this popular trail annually.”

Winterization activities also have started on the three miles of OHV Trail Loop 6 that were damaged by the fire, but more work is needed before that trail will be usable, Ernst-Ulrich said.

Forest officials are working with the Western States Trail and the Western States Endurance Run foundations in recruiting volunteers.

“People have been helping winterize the trail a couple of times per week, as schedules and weather permit,” Ernst-Ulrich said. “This pattern will continue until the winterization work is finished or weather no longer permits repair activities.”

Many people have expressed interest in helping complete the high-priority work before winter, so an experienced volunteer pool is in place now, she said.

“However, the district encourages people to call to see where they might fit in either this fall or next spring when more work is planned,” she said. “Volunteers are reminded that this effort is underway in steep, remote terrain, so physical endurance is needed.”

To volunteer, call the American River District office, (530)367-2224, between 8a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.