Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Well, I've been pretty quiet for the last month and a half, and I owe you all an explanation.

The long and the short of it is - I've resigned from the project.

I could go into a lot of angry details about why I've left, but the bottom line is that I fundamentally disagree with the way the project is being managed and consider it to be a betrayal of what we were trying to do in the first place - to get a trail on the ground, yes... but do it in a way that reflected the values and interests of this community. This was a project driven by the community and for the community. It isn't that, any more... hell, they've even posted a "no hiking" sign at the trailhead. What a waste.

That all said, if they get this first segment of trail on the ground, and there's no reason to think that they won't, we'll have good trail to Talbot Creek. The Talbot Canyon trail needs a whole lot of work to be sustainable, but it's there and people will once again be able to use it to reach Verdi Lake. Not only that, but the existing Conrad Creek and Thorpe Creek trails will be accessible, as will the existing Secret-Lamoille Trail. None of them is in good shape, but they're there and you'll be able to use them.

There's a whole lot of work yet to be done, if somebody else wants to take the lead and see this thing through. The NEPA work for the rest of the project remains to be done, as does the trail design and fundraising. Those are the things that I've been able to coordinate along with my previous partners, primarily Bill Wolf. All of those things have to be completed before the project can go an inch past Talbot Creek (or for that matter, do the badly needed repairs on the Talbot Canyon trail.) Bill's already raised most of the money to get the trail to Conrad Creek, and to do the repairs on the Talbot Canyon trail, if they manage the project right. Without the NEPA, though, the project can't proceed. Maybe the Forest Service can get it done, or one of the other folks running the show these days. Who's to say, but without the team we had in place I don't envision anything happening quickly.

Dreams die, and life goes on. One of my friends has approached me about working on a mountain bike trail system in the hills around Elko, and that sounds like a worthwhile endeavor to me. There's tremendous potential there, if we can get the checkerboard problem worked out. Based on how the community made this project happen, there's no doubt in my mind that we can. I'll just be a lot more careful, next time, about who we bring in to help.


  1. You and I disagreed about certain aspects of this project but I have admired your perseverence and tenacity. Can you provide anything specific about how the trail is being constructed or the project managed that you disagreer with. You must have taken a proprietary interest in this project but whenever you bring on other people, groupsn organizations and the feds there will be competition for direction and credit.

  2. I started to write a reply, Anonymous, but there really isn't a lot of point to it. Nothing I write is going to change anything. As I said, there will still be a new trail on the ground and we can be thankful for that, whether I support how it's being done or not.

    I have taken a huge proprietary interest in this project and have worked a ridiculous amount of time to make it happen. I sat down and figured it out a few weeks back, because volunteer hours count for grant matching. Since the last quarter of 2007 (when I changed calendar programs in my computer), I've put in more than $50,000 worth of billable time on project management, fundraising and community relations for this trail. All as a volunteer. This is in addition to running a successful (and rapidly growing) small business and a small but profitable cattle ranch.

    I didn't make this decision lightly, trust me. This has been my life's dream, and I had no intention of stopping with just this trail. So many of these canyons are locked up behind "no trespassing" signs, and nobody's doing a damned thing about it. But it's no longer possible for me to be an effective advocate for this project. Other people will have to take that role.

  3. And, BTW, those $50,000 worth of billable hours is just from last quarter of 2007. I've been working on this since 2003. I didn't keep track of those hours, though.

  4. Good luck to you. You have my respect. Perhaps some day you will share my view that increasing access to Talbot Canyon and other remote parts of the Rubies is not a good thing. I am older than you and out of shape but I can go there with little trouble and appreciate the solitude and absence of other people. Joe Royer will give you access anytime you want. As the area's population increases, that wilderness and solitude will be all the more precious for those willing to take the trouble to find it. There is already a lot of underutilized access in the Rubies. Island lake is probably the easiest trail but there are rarely a lot of people there. I have hiked to Verdi Lake many times and on most trips encountered other people. There are internet sites which list all the lakes and trails in the Rubies that virtually no one makes the effort to visit. The people who want a wilderness experience still have this possibility in some of the most beautiful parts of the Rubies, and don't want the crowds that greater access may bring. The Dysart subdivision was nicer when it was a ranch ... More people may enjoy it but the environment has been degraded. The Lamoille Highway was a much better place before Spring Creek was developed. The game trail up Talbot Canyon is better than a maintained trail and hikers and horsemen that use it find it to be adferquate. I know you think differently, I am sorry that your drrams have not been fully trealized and I- respect you and the efforts you made and wish you well. Anonymous.

  5. Thanks, Anonymous, that's very gracious of you.

    We're going to have to agree to disagree. Trust me, I'm no big fan of the changes population growth has brought to our sleepy little town, either, but the bottom line is that access to the Rubies is going to become more and more difficult unless somebody does something about it NOW. The longer we wait, the more gates slam shut and the harder it will be to get up into these mountains.

    When I was a kid, getting up to Talbot Canyon through the Dysart was no problem. Getting up Smith Creek and Gennette Creek and McCutcheon Creek was no problem. Getting up Seitz Canyon was no problem. Getting up Long Canyon was no problem. Getting up to Griswold Lake was no problem. Now all of those canyons are closed to all but a select few, because properties at the mouths of those canyons have been subdivided or sold to out-of-towners or closed off because of politics and flooded with no trespassing signs. The "no public access" signs I saw up Smith Creek Road recently made me mad as hell and more than a little sick to my stomach. Yet another trail I remembered with fondness shut off to public access, just so a bunch of rich people can have their private playground.

    My access to public land shouldn't have to depend on somebody granting me permission to go through their gate. As a taxpayer, I'm on the hook for fire management, weed management, wildlife management... all of the other things that go with public lands maintenance. Why should somebody be able to block me from accessing that land?

    I'm guessing that you don't access Verdi Lake over the ridge from the Terraces. That means that you had to get permission from somebody to get up there. That also means that whomever granted you permission can tell you NO at any time, for any reason. Or they can go on vacation for six months, not answer their phone, and passively deny public lands access to you and everybody else who might want to visit.

    My dad sold the current owners of Ruby Dome Ranch much of the acreage for that ranch back in the 1960's. I've known those people since I was tiny. A couple of years ago their ranch manager told me that I couldn't go up Seitz Canyon through Ruby Dome Ranch because "they didn't want people back there." WTF? What right do they have to shut me or anybody else out because they don't want anybody back up their "private" canyon?

    In reality, they have every right in the world to not allow access through their private property, and if we want to have access to these canyons we need to come up with other solutions. We need to go around, and we need to do it in a way that's safe and doesn't cause damage to the mountains we love. Thus, the Secret-Lamoille Trail project, and thus the Seitz Canyon project (among others) that I once had in my sights. They can deny me the right to cross their property, but I'll be damned if they can tell me I can't go up into the Rubies.

    Building these trails isn't going to lead to a flood of visitors. You said yourself that you hardly ever see people up the Island Lake trail, and it's only two miles long. Getting to Verdi Lake via the new trail is a 14-mile one-way trip... not something for the casual user. You'll still have your solitude - and you'll have access when the last of the folks at the mouth of Talbot Canyon decide they don't like your eye color and refuse you permission to cross their land.

    At any rate - thanks for being a worthwhile adversary. It's clear that we both love these mountains, and I'm glad we have that in common. Someday we may run into each other out there - it'll be nice to put a name to the "anonymous."