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Sierra Watch is Watching Royal Gorge

Sierra Watch, the Nevada County based non-profit environmental conservation group has its eye on Royal Gorge,    First American Title Company filed a Notice of Default on the Royal Gorge property on Donner Summit June 23, 2011. According to the notice, filed in both Nevada County and Placer County, Royal Gorge property owners owe an outstanding balance of nearly $17 million dollars. If the balance is not paid within 90 days from the date of the notice, creditors can sell the property. Peter Van Zant with Sierra Watch says the group is interested in working with other similar parties to obtain the property should it fall into default.

“Well Sierra Watch, we have been facilitating a meeting of Donner Summit groups for several years now. This is the homeowners association and other conservation groups. Then there are groups like the land trust and Trust Republic Lands. We’ve been in conversations with them over the year. We talk.”

In 2005, developers bought the nearly 3,000-acre Royal Gorge property on Donner Summit, including the existing Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort, the upper reaches of the American River Canyon, and the headwaters of the Yuba River.  Two years later, they released an initial development proposal with a series of development projects – extending from the edge of Sugar Bowl and over the crest of the Sierra.  In order to service the new subdivisions, developers proposed to remake Donner Summit with new roads through local forests, new dams in Sierra headwaters, and 200 acres of sewage ‘spray fields’. Sierra Watch says the plan was not sound and no development plans were ever submitted for the project due to various construction hurdles.

“It’s not clear that there’s any water. We know that the sewer system is doing an upgrade and that does not include any extra capacity for them. Placer County’s going to require them to put in a second exit because that whole property is separated by the railroad. It’s a real challenge area. I have no idea why they did this.”

Sierra Watch, and other conservation groups are left to wait and see what the owner, Kirk C. Syme will do next. Sierra Watch is working with local allies to build support to permanently protect the Royal Gorge property. Default and subsequent sale may provide the opportunity.  


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