History of Bear Yuba Land Trust
The development boom of the late '80s
Area residents were growing apprehensive. Long-established access to trails, swimming holes, and open space was being closed off and developed with greater frequency. Real estate prices began to sky rocket and the kind of development transforming other rural California communities began to appear. The special lifestyle enjoyed in Nevada County might be vulnerable.
On the other hand, many believed that growth was not only inevitable, but also important. How can a community foster progress and, at the same time, ensure that natural amenities – those cherished assets that define the community would be safeguarded? Nevada County government agencies had no mandate for making available trails, open space or parks, and none were on the horizon.
As it happened, these concerns coincided with the question raised at a local area Sierra Club meeting in 1990, about how to celebrate the upcoming 10th anniversary of Earth Day. The members wanted something more than a one-time event – something that would have long-term impact. One member had a Sierra Club newsletter describing the new burgeoning Land Trust movement. He posed the question: “Why don’t we start a Land Trust for Nevada County?”
The original founding group included Ted Toal, a computer expert, David Wright, an architect, David Palley, a lawyer, Lynn Campbell, a schoolteacher, Susan Ellenbogen, a lawyer, plus Greg Zaller, Judy Bloch, Hilary Hedman, and Ted Smith. This group led an effort for the new Land Trust separate and distinct from the Sierra Club.
This land trust effort needed to be community driven and voluntary. Practical success would only be possible by pulling together a wide diversity of ideas and opinions, and by promoting the greatest possible community participation. The group determined they would seek voluntary donations of land by drawing support from all shades of the political spectrum while remaining scrupulously non-political. Most essentially, the new Nevada County Land Trust's future actions could neither involve government dictate nor condemnation of land.
Organizing for daily operations
The group sought the assistance of Sequoya Challenge, a successful local organization dedicated to making old hydraulic ditch lines into wheel-chair accessible trails. Sequoya Challenge sheltered the Land Trust as a special project in September 1990. With little revenue and great pragmatic needs, another local organization came to the rescue. The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) generously offered a corner of its downtown Nevada City office to commence activities.
Learn as you grow
Now the idealistic Land Trust founders felt overwhelmed at the needs around them. The first three programs set a pattern of success.
The owners of a pond in Alta Sierra wanted it preserved and available for use by area residents. Overpopulated by domestic waterfowl, the pond-water was becoming polluted. The Mathis family donated the pond to teh Land Trust. Joann Hild, a professor of ecology at Sierra College, proposed to take on the pond as a class project. Randy Oliver managed the project. The Audubon Society provided nesting boxes for bluebirds and an interpretive kiosk. Local Girl Scouts planted trees. Benches were built and then installed by Eagle Scouts.
The Litton Trail
David Palley, an original founder and Board Member, persuaded the Litton family to grant a trail easement alongside the Grass Valley NID ditch. The first section was paved for ADA. The second part, unpaved, connects with Sierra College. The third section connects to Ridge Road near the Eskaton retirement village. This well-used transportation corridor is considered one of the finest urban trail models in the region for solutions to air quality problems, traffic congestion and other ills associated with a growing community.
Round Mountain Wildlife Preserve
Janeia Donaldson and Robin Malgren began work in 1994 on a dream to conserve a 160-acre slice of pristine Nevada County. They signed an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management and California State Parks to protect land around this preserve. The Land Trust facilitated the process leading to agreements on fuels management, public safety, water quality and quantity, air quality, recreation, fisheries, wildlife, riparian/ terrestrial habitat, timber and cultural and scenic values. Round Mountain Wildlife Preserve became the first successful conservation easement and established the Land Trust's role of land steward.
North Star House gifted to Nevada County Land Trust
In 2000, Dryden Wilson left his estate for the development of open space in Placer and Nevada Counties. The Nevada County Board of Supervisors gave its portion of the money to the Land Trust. Around the same time, developer Sandy Sanderson gave 14 acres of his North Star Mine property to the Land Trust for preservation. The site included a 10,000 square foot Julie Morgan-design mansion, built in 1905, that was about to succumb to the forces of age, disrepair and nature. Hundreds of volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring the house to security and stability. North Star House is ready for the next phase of historical renovation. The Land Trust created a separate non-profit entity, the North Star Historic Conservancy to manage the rehabilitation and ongoing project.
A new approach: Conservation Through Collaboration
In Fall of 2009, Trust for Public Land, Nevada County Land Trust and Placer Land Trust came together to form the Northern Foorhills Partnership. These three land conservation organizations have formed this partnership to increase investment in strategic landscape-scale conservation of the Bear and Yuba River watersheds. Through unique recreational opportunities and sustainable rangelands, the Northern Foothills Partnership will provide protection to the waterways, historic ranches and the oak woodlands of the Sierra Foothills.
In 2011, to overcome the perceived image of the Land Trust as being a government organization and to encompass the greater jurisdiction of the Land Trust's influence (not being limited to political boundaries) the Nevada County Land Trust became the Bear Yuba Land Trust and abring greater awareness to our watershed.
Today, Bear Yuba Land Trust is poised for the future, with more than a thousand family members, hundreds of volunteers, dozens of engaged experts, a solid balance sheet and a new strategic plan. The Land Trust is responding to the growing demand for more open space and protected lands in the Bear Yuba watershed.