Carson City committees discuss Waterfall Trailhead project

A proposed parking lot off Kings Canyon Road near the Waterfall Trailhead would feature 30 parking spaces, a gate to limit nighttime access, and a bathroom.

A proposed parking lot off Kings Canyon Road near the Waterfall Trailhead would feature 30 parking spaces, a gate to limit nighttime access, and a bathroom.

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Discussion of the Waterfall Trailhead and Kings Canyon Road project dominated a joint meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission and Open Space Advisory Committee on Monday.

The project will reconstruct about one mile of Kings Canyon Road and add a parking lot near the top of the street to provide access for visitors to the Waterfall Trailhead there.

The Regional Transportation Commission, U.S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration entered into an agreement for the project, which is funded by an FHA grant. Carson City Public Works is redoing the road. Central Federal Lands, part of the FHA, is designing the parking lot, which will be located on Forest Service land, with significant input from city staff.

Opinion at the meeting was divided mostly between those who see the improvements attracting more people to the already crowded area and those who think the project will help alleviate congestion there.

Mainly at issue is parking. People park along the road now, often blocking residents’ driveways and creating other hazards.

“We commonly see 20-plus vehicles there and we’ve had 50 or more with COVID,” said Gregg Berggren, trails coordinator. “What’s there now is problematic and a headache for the homeowners.”

The parking lot, as currently designed, would feature 30 parking spaces, including two for trailers, a gate to cut off access at night, and a two-unit bathroom.
The project will also relocate the trailhead farther south, and farther away from residents, and move one resident’s driveway farther away from the area.

Six people called in to make public comment, five of them nearby homeowners.

A petition written in late May and signed by about 150 residents requests the design reduce the parking lot to 15 spaces, eliminate the bathroom, limit road widening to 24 feet, relocate the trailhead 300-400 feet from a resident’s driveway, and prohibit all road parking 1,000 feet within the parking lot.

Jennifer Budge, director, Parks, Recreation and Open Space, said the Forest Service is adamant about including a bathroom, but the city would again request it be built with a single toilet.

The parking lot, too, could change. One idea is to make it one-way driving, which would change the direction of spaces and reduce their number.

Several members of the two commissions, including Bruce Scott, chair of the Open Space committee, were in favor of the larger lot.

“And I don’t see the difference between a one or two unit bathroom,” said Scott. “Build it as far away from the residences as possible.”

The project is at 70 percent design. City staff plans to reach out to nearby residents before giving Central Federal Lands its comments on the current design. It will return to the RTC and Open Space committee at 90 percent design at which time any changes will have to be minor, said Beggren.

The joint panel also heard a review of the Prison Hill Recreation Area Master Plan, which it recommended to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The item drew a lot less discussion, and no public comment, despite public interest and some controversy over the years as it was developed.

The debate over time was mostly concerning the area set aside for off-highway vehicles. Homeowners have complained of trespassing and some hikers of degradation to the natural habitat by excessive OHV use.

The master plan includes the Prison Hill OHV Management Plan developed in 2018 with the National Off-Highway Conservation Council and already approved by the Open Space Advisory Committee.

Prison Hill consists of about 2,500 acres that includes Golden Eagle Open Space, Mexican Dam Open Space, an 114-acre parcel off Koontz Lane and a portion of Silver Saddle Ranch.

The draft master plan can be found online at


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