Friday afternoon local, state and national officials gathered in a quiet meadow overlooking the Middle and North Forks of the Yuba River during a dedication ceremony of Bear Yuba Land Trust’s 2,707-acre Rice’s Crossing Preserve.
“This is one of those remarkable projects. This is special,” said Northern California Director of Trust for Public Land Dave Sutton. “It is people, it is individuals, who make this work happen.”
Sutton was joined by Program Manager for Trust for Public Land Markley Bavinger who worked tirelessly for many years with many stakeholders to secure the deal.
The $3.25 million acquisition was funded by Proposition 84 funds through the California Natural Resources Agency’s River Parkways Program ($1.9 million) and Sierra Nevada Conservancy ($1 million) in addition to funding from the CalTrans Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program ($350,000).
BYLT acquired Rice’s Crossing Preserve in June of 2014, the largest landholding in the Land Trust’s 25 year history. A community success story, the preserve helped BYLT to grow its conservation footprint from 6,000 to 9,000 acres. BYLT’s stewardship team will monitor the property ensuring that habitat for threatened and endangered species will be protected and restored. BYLT will work closely with South Yuba River Citizens League to develop a monitoring plan for this section of the river.
“It’s all based on the Yuba River, the life of the community… The river has always been and continues to be a way that brings us all together,” said Projects Manager for Yuba County Water Agency Geoff Rabone.
Rice’s Crossing links over 8,500 acres of public open space and will provide unprecedented access to the river in the form of hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and fishing.
Nevada County District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston sees Rice’s Crossing as a key recreation landholding that will drive tourism and help the local economy.
“This will last for generations. This will be the trail system, the connection system, the economy booster,” said Weston, who someday sees himself walking from Bullards Bar to the new covered bridge at Bridgeport.
The acquisition of Rice’s Crossing was initiated in 2007 by a group of conservationists including Shawn Garvey and Janet Cohen who, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, applied for initial funding. The Trust for Public Land played a critical role supporting the project, partnering with BYLT in 2011, and providing the expertise to complete the acquisition. The Sierra Fund has also remained a key project supporter and fiscal agent from beginning to end.
Other speakers on Friday included: Polly Escovedo from California Natural Resources Agency; Bob Kingman from Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Izzy Martin from The Sierra Fund, South Yuba River Citizens League’s Board President Barbara Getz and Bear Yuba Land Trust Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt and BYLT Board President Andy Cassano.
A preliminary management plan for Rice’s Crossing Preserve has been created and Bear Yuba Land Trust is just beginning to seek community input on the project.
“What does the community want us to build and where?” asked Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt.
After an overview of the property and recognition of key players in the project, participants walked the still rough first 2.5 mile section of the new Yuba Rim Trail. Led by BYLT’s trails team and built with the help of 17 committed volunteers who worked 187 hours since January, the new trail winds through the shelter of a mixed conifer forest before opening up to views of the Yuba River canyon. A grand opening of the trail for the general public will be held during BYLT’s annual event, Walk on the Wild Side on April 18.