The Nonprofit Connecting Lost Sierra Communities via 600-Mile Trail Project

Connected Communities is the apt name for a project aiming to build over 600 miles of trail that will link 15 rural communities in the Northern Sierra Nevada, aka the Sierra Buttes, aka the “Lost Sierra.” According to SFGATE, these trails have a dual purpose: “creating more access to public lands and building a sustainable economy in (these) mountain communities.”

This trail network seeks to provide an experience that is the “complete opposite” of the PCT, which traverses nearby: it will be “A Trail for Everyone,” encouraging users ranging from bikes (both motorized and not), fishers, hunters, hikers, and equestrians. Unlike the PCT, it also is designed to bring users right to the hearts of the local communities, showcasing the beauty and culture of the towns. This project is spearheaded by the nonprofit group, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), which aims to complete construction by 2030.

Map of Connected Communities. Photo courtesy of The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship.

Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship

The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is a nonprofit founded in 2003 “dedicated to the restoration, maintenance, and enhancement of recreational trails in Tahoe, Plumas, and Lassen National Forest of the Lost Sierra.” They build both single-track trail for all users, as well as other sections of designated non-motorized trail. Their aim is to promote sustainable recreation both for the local community, as well as for visitors, to help bring in business and commerce to some of these towns that increasingly rely on a recreation-based economy. A core pillar of their strategy is to include and engage local community members so that the voices most impacted by these issues can have a voice. Many of the SBTS leadership are also local residents, some of whose families have been living in the Lost Sierra for generations.

Many of the trails that were in use before SBTS was founded were trails from the 19th century that were built without regard to erosion or other impacts on local ecosystems. SBTS attempts to modernize these trails with current sustainability techniques, to encourage people to take advantage of local beauty and outdoor recreation without harm.

Linking Rural Communities

The towns in the proposed Lost Sierra route are transitioning from economies based on resource extraction to economies based on tourism and recreation. According to the SBTS, “It will create a vision for a recreation-focused lifestyle through community investment, shared stewardship, economic opportunity, and important new local jobs, all benefiting economically disadvantaged communities in California’s Plumas, Sierra, Butte, and Lassen Counties.”

These are towns whose economies were based on resource extraction, where pivoting to a recreation-based economy could help revitalize the community. When surveyed, 94% of respondents were in favor of increased trail construction; this sample included both local community members and visitors. Funding for trail construction and maintenance is also crucial after the devastating Dixie Fire in 2021; many of these towns and local forests sustained damage, and Greenville was almost completely destroyed. These trails will not only bring people to towns, they will bring people between towns. Thus, the goal is to create an interconnected sense of community and identity through these towns with shared histories and interests.

Want to support the Connected Communities project? Donate here.

Featured image via Vinny Tagliatela.

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