One of the projects our organization supports is the eventual construction of a trail system connecting the site of the birth of the gold rush at Coloma to Sacramento, the gateway to the gold fields.
We call this trail project The Golden Necklace, and have written about it in our 2007 research report Governance, Ecoregionalism, & Heritage: A Policy Primer, (pp. 17-27)
The trail is envisioned as beginning in Coloma, running southwest along the South Fork of the American River over the Salmon Falls Bridge, southwest along Folsom Lake to connect with the American River Parkway, then running southwest to the confluence with the Sacramento River, and then running south along the Sacramento River to the historic Chinese town of Locke, and then running northeast up the Cosumnes River Preserve, then turning north on the Folsom South Canal Trail, connecting back to the American River Parkway at Lake Natoma.
A recent story in The Sacramento Press about the El Dorado Trail being considered as part of the rails to trails effort connecting Lake Tahoe to Sacramento is a welcome addition.
“The El Dorado Trail stretches from South Lake Tahoe to the western El Dorado county line and runs along the Sacramento Placerville Train Corridor (SPTC) from Placerville West. This trail is partially developed (witness the newest, very heavily used, section from Forni Road to Missouri Flat Road) and could eventually be a hiking, biking, equestrian connection of South Lake Tahoe to Folsom. From Folsom the American River Parkway connects to Davis and eventually to San Francisco.
“The people of El Dorado County purchased the rights to the El Dorado county portion of the SPTC in 1995 under the auspices of the 1983 National Trail System act (better known as the “Rails to Trails” act). This act recognized that the national system of rail corridors was in danger of being abandoned and lost due to a change in transportation efficiencies, and Congress set out to save the corridors by “railbanking” them. The thrust of “railbanking” is simple:
• It allows local jurisdictions to preserve the rail corridors by establishing trails until, and if, active commercial rail use is needed again.
• If commercial rail use becomes viable again, in the future, then the commercial rail companies have the absolute right to lay new track, at their expense, and re-take the corridor.
• It allows the commercial rail companies to leave their existing assets in place (such as trestles and cuts and fills) and not have to return the land to prior status.
• It preempts trail development on the corridors from environmental processes as rails are simply being replaced by trails.
• It maintains the integrity of the corridor land use and prevents adjacent land owners from attempting to take railbanked land (this land use issue was settled in the Preseault case before the US Supreme Court in 1990).
“Whether existing track is removed or stays is inconsequential to the National Trail System Act or the right of a rail company to re-take the corridor in the future, as long as the interim use is for trails.”