SOUTH LAKE TAHOE -- Trails that run southeast of Lake Tahoe by Freel Peak and through Meiss Country could be rerouted, improved, or closed by the end of the summer.
The U.S. Forest Service, as part of a Lake Tahoe Basin trail management plan that began in 1999, identified the Freel/Meiss area as the first of nine trail areas to be worked on in the basin because of water quality concerns, said Garret Villanueva, USFS civil engineer.
The work being proposed includes a trail to Freel Peak and rerouting of the Dardanelles Loop, also known as the Christmas Valley Trail, that runs along the upper Truckee River.
"It varies, but it would be moved up to 1,000 feet from its existing location," Villanueva said.
The trail is cherished by mountain bikers for its difficulty and beauty.
"We've been working with TAMBA (Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association)," Villanueva said. "We've come up with different proposals, and when we go to construct it, we will be consulting with TAMBA.
"We want to keep it a similar type. It will stay difficult ... because that's what people are looking for."
The Forest Service has identified 485 miles of trail in the basin, about half of which are not considered system trails.
The Freel/Meiss area contains 98 of those trail miles, 42 of which are nonsystem trails.
According to the USFS proposal, released last week, seven of the 42 miles of nonsystem trail will be upgraded to become part of the trail system, 13.4 miles will be kept as primitive trail, and 13.6 miles would be closed.
The Forest Service also expects to create five miles of trails and possibly build bridges on existing trails.
Some of the public comment in the proposal deals with access for motorcycles, Villanueva said. For example, a suggestion to connect the top of the Corral Loop to Powerline Road is included. Another suggestion to connect the top of Mr. Toad's to Hell Hole Road wasn't feasible because of conflicting environmental concerns, he said.
"The whole purpose is to create a sustainable trail system that's low impact to the environment, but high quality," Villanueva said.
The work planned for the Freel/Meiss area is expected to cost about $250,000, but that number could increase, depending on how many bridges are needed.
The Forest Service hopes to begin construction sometime in June. Additional public comments on its preliminary report are due by Feb. 3. An environmental assessment report will be released before a decision is made.
-- To read a copy of the preliminary report or comment on it, contact Villanueva by e-mail at email@example.com or by mail at U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Attn: Villanueva, 870 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Villanueva can also be reached at (530) 573-2762.