Hope Valley is Alpine’s shining jewel
March 5, 2007
Alpine County is blessed with beautiful lands that are enjoyed by its residents as well as by visitors from Carson Valley, Carson City and other places in Nevada and by travelers from Jackson, Sacramento, the Bay area and other parts of California. Adults and children fish, camp, and picnic in the warmer months and in winter cross country ski, snowshoe, snow mobile, or just play in the snow.
Hope Valley is a shining jewel in the county. It is important not only for its beauty but also because of its history, for it reflects a continuing struggle to preserve pristine recreation areas in the county. Yet not many are aware of how a group of engaged Alpine citizens saved the valley and other places for public use, and their continuing efforts to prevent projects that would destroy their beauty.
Before Hope Valley was opened to the public it was used mostly for grazing cattle and sheep. My first visit, with my wife Wilma Rule was in the late 1950s. As we hiked in a meadow we came across a Basque sheepherder with his flock of sheep and a border collie, who rushed toward us, seemingly annoyed by our intrusion. But with a signal from the sheepherder the collie reversed course and returned to the flock. And for many years cattle continued to graze the verdant fields.
The first project that would change the landscape was the proposal by the land division of Sierra Pacific in 1985 to establish a gravel pit. The strong protests by a loosely organized group of local residents led the company to abandon its effort. Yet it provided a valuable lesson: Hope Valley was not immune from destructive change; the population in California, as well as in Nevada, was growing, the dirt road over Luther Pass was being paved, and Highway 88 was realigned. As a consequence more people would be coming into the area. By late 1985 development in Hope Valley seemed imminent; there was interest in subdividing and constructing residences.
Alarmed by the growing threat to the valley some two-dozen concerned citizens formed Friends of Hope Valley in March of 1986 and led the fight to preserve the valley. Their effort resonated among many in the community and in time was joined by the board of supervisors, the planning commission and the ranchers.
However proposals continued to surface that would mar Hope Valley’s beauty. In the spring of 1986 the Sacramento Public Utility District wanted to put power lines through the valley. Imagine towers with their cables sprinkled throughout the valley. That effort was successfully fought by the friends. The second major scheme was AT&T’s proposal in February of 1987 for a fiber optic line through the valley. The company applied to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service for right-of-ways that would put a 20-foot-wide swath of gravel over its length, plus maintenance buildings every 500 feet. Again the friends’ opposition was successful.
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The successful struggle to save Hope Valley raised the sights of Friends of Hope Valley and other residents to preserve scenic and environmentally sensitive areas throughout Alpine County. That effort was greatly helped by California voters’ passage of Proposition 70 in 1988.
It provided funds to purchase Picketts Junction, and an additional 2,500 acres in Hope Valley was purchased by the California Department of Fish and Game that included Willow Creek.
Proposition 70 also gave money to buy river bottomland along Blue Lakes Road, and Sierra Pacific deeded additional land along the road to the Forest Service. The Trust for Public Land was very helpful in the drive to obtain scenic and environmentally important areas, and a $4 million appropriation by Congress in 1989 added Faith Valley and parts of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. An additional appropriation of $1.5 million by Congress in 1993 led to the purchase of Bagley Valley. When you drive over Monitor Pass and approach the Nevada border you can see that beautiful valley.
So when you and your family and friends enjoy Alpine County’s pristine beauty give a tip of the hat to the folks whose efforts help preserve it.
— Irving Krauss is a Markleeville resident. He is filling in for Gina Gigli, who is on vacation.