Dead end at Old Clear Creek Road

Old Clear Creek Road is crumbling at the edges.    BRAD HORN/ Nevada Appeal

Old Clear Creek Road is crumbling at the edges. BRAD HORN/ Nevada Appeal

Old Clear Creek Road is a victim of lost identity.

It used to be a gateway to the paradise of Lake Tahoe for motorists until the 1950s, leading shiny coupes and roadsters to Spooner Summit.

Now, no one really wants to own up to the chipping, potholed relic.

The slim, winding road goes through two counties, public lands, private homes and tribal property - creating an unusual mix of owners.

The state, Washoe Tribe, Douglas County, Carson City and private homeowners have struggled for more than 10 years to figure out who is responsible for maintaining the crumbling roadway.

The road provides the only access for residents to reach Highway 395.

Homeowners are being told they might have to foot a $1 million bill through increased property taxes to repair the road.

But some residents are asking why they should be responsible for that cost when the road is heavily used by the public. The U.S. Forest Service plans to use the road for public trail access and fire prevention, and the state uses it to transport children to its youth camp at the end of the road.

"All of these future plans are going to have an impact on our road," said resident Gigi Valenti-Coté. "If somebody gets into an accident, who's going to be liable for it? Yet what we keep hearing about is an increase in our property taxes to fix this road, and we don't think it's fair."

The Washoe Tribe is also concerned about right-of-way problems.

The state abandoned the road in 1957, handing it off to Carson City, Douglas County and the tribe. Carson City eventually deeded its portion to homeowners along the road. There is still a question whether Douglas County ever filed paperwork to officially hand over the land.

Carson City maintains a portion of the lower roadway, which provides access to Costco and Fuji Park. Homeowners are responsible for 3.1 miles for the 26 homes in the area.

The road passes through tribal property before it ends at the state's Clear Creek Youth Camp. The camp is being renovated but houses temporary residents. When in operation, buses regularly transport youth to the site.

The U.S. Forest Service is planning several projects, including reducing fire fuels and clearing brush from the headwaters of Clear Creek at the top of the hill. Other projects might include connecting a regional trail in the area, improving parking, and promoting the road for use by pedestrians, cyclists and horses.

At a public meeting last week, the ideas met with criticism from residents who didn't welcome the possible increased traffic.

A proposal to develop Schneider Ranch into a 1,476-acre subdivision was rejected last week after a district court judge ordered Douglas County to deny the request. The judge said in his ruling the master plan requires the county to work with the Washoe Tribe, which has been vocal in opposition to the development. The property owner is now considering alternatives, said Douglas County Community Development Director Bob Nunes.

Denial of the project eliminated an opportunity for Clear Creek Road to intersect Highway 50.

One solution presented by the Carson City Transportation Department would be to split with Douglas County the estimated $57,000 it would cost to chip-seal the road. Then the counties would acquire the necessary right-of-way prior to the work and split the annual maintenance costs.

Representatives from the state Transportation Department, city, county, Conservation District and the U.S. Forest Service agreed Wednesday to work on a plan with residents.

Carson City Supervisor Richard Staub said he would try to set up a meeting between Carson City and Douglas County to develop resolutions by the end of the year to determine who is responsible for meeting standards, maintenance and funding.

"It's something that's far overdue," Staub said. "We need to try to find some resolution to that road before somebody gets hurt."

Contact Jill Lufrano at or 881-1217.


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