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Blog provided courtesy of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

A Game Changer For Truckee

These 26 acres of open space have been the backdrop to the vibrant, historic downtown core for as long as Truckee has been Truckee – always in sight, but for generations closed off and out of reach.

To borrow a term from our railroad past – this property is a golden spike for Truckee. It will connect downtown to the river. Connect east to west via the Truckee River Legacy Trail. Connect the public to inaccessible lands all along the south bank of the river. And maintain a critical connection for wildlife between the water’s edge and thousands of acres of upland habitat.

That connection will need to happen between all of us as well. We need to come together as a community to fund this purchase so the land can be permanently protected and opened to the public, free and accessible for our friends, our families and for generations to come.

The Truckee Donner Land Trust is under contract to purchase the property, forever protecting and preserving it – and we need your help. Join us in swinging the hammer down on this golden spike to connect Truckee’s past and present, open space and cultural center, east and west.

“The Land Trust’s acquisition of this property is a total game changer for Truckee. Since the creation of the Downtown Specific Plan more than 20 years ago, a riverfront park has been envisioned to serve as an anchor for the town.” – Tony Lashbrook, former Truckee Town Manager

A conceptual rendering of the planned pedestrian bridge from West River Street to the new Park. Photo by Lori Carpenter, illustration by Ryan Group Architects

Access and Recreation

Trapped behind a legacy of historic industrial uses, the Truckee River has been blocked and fenced off from downtown Truckee for decades. For nearly 20 years, the Truckee Donner Land Trust has dreamt of protecting these 26 acres and opening dozens more of inaccessible public lands to the public, creating miles of access along the south bank of the Truckee River.

This property is the missing link for the backbone of the town’s recreation and alternative transportation network – the Truckee River Legacy Trail – allowing it to connect the existing stretch from Glenshire in the east to Donner Lake in the west.

Imagine grabbing a to-go bag from your favorite downtown restaurant and heading to a picnic table along side the Truckee River under an

aspen tree. Or running along the Legacy Trail to the Riverview Sports Park. Or as a visitor without the need for a car, arriving on Amtrak and jumping on a bicycle to pedal from downtown to Donner Lake.

More connections will follow – with ideas for dirt paths connecting uphill to existing trails like Sawtooth and Big Chief. And places to access the river itself for fishing, floating or just skipping stones.

The Land Trust has a proven track record of creating sustainable access and recreation on its protected lands, building more than 45 miles of trails, sprinkling in picnic tables and benches for the public to enjoy.

Fall colors light up the Downtown Truckee Riverfront Park. Photo by Bill Stevenson

Conservation in Truckee’s Core

While public access is an exciting aspect of protecting this property, it also goes to the heart of the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s mission. Preserving the habitat, the flora and the fauna of the riparian corridor along the Truckee River builds off of upstream protections by the US Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. That maintains large swaths of open space for animals to roam – both along the river’s bank and between the water’s edge and upland habitat totaling thousands of acres.

Willows, alders and aspens – increasingly rare in our area, characterize the riparian habitat of the property, giving way to mixed conifer forest as the property turns uphill. Bears, coyote and deer are regularly seen, countless birds touch down in the willows as they fly by, and the trout and other animals of the Truckee River depend on clean waters not further impaired by erosion.

In the face of a changing climate, places like this that allow for the restoration of the watershed help store water, mitigate flood damage and regulate the wild swings brought on by more temperamental weather patterns.

“The springs, streams and wetlands can be restored, as can the riparian and cottonwood areas right along the Truckee River. The restored areas will provide more habitat, protect water quality and buffer against the impacts of drought and flooding.” – Lisa Wallace, Executive Director, Truckee River Watershed Council

Preventing the Impact of Development

The property’s natural resources and potential for public access have been imperiled for decades. Current zoning would allow for up to a 120-room hotel, or 40 single-family residences. It has been vacant since World War II. Before the War, it housed a factory that milled lodgepole pine to make boxes for shipping fruit grown in the Sacramento Valley.

A development on this property would be prohibitively expensive for addressing the community’s achievable housing needs – meaning any development would come with all the impact, but none of the benefit.

Instead, protecting the land as open space creates tremendous benefit for the entire community, regardless of economic status.

A fresh blanket of snow on the Downtown Truckee Riverfront Park harkens back to the days of the Ice Palace and winter fun. Photo by Bill Stevenson

The Ice Palace – A Colorful History

Preserving this land is preserving a piece of our collective history. C.F. McGlashan, a driving force in Truckee’s early days famous for putting the Donner Party’s story to paper, picked this property to be the site of his Ice Palace and the “Fiesta of Snows” in 1913.

It was an early attempt at moving beyond railroad and timber as the engines of Truckee’s economy, vying for the attention of tourists in the winter months. He picked the property’s pond for an ice-skating rink, and built a dance hall and several rooms with fireplaces for people to rest after a day of playing in the snow. Two new toboggan runs made for exciting rides of more than a mile from Hilltop down to the front of the Ice Palace. A mechanical lift transported riders back up the hill.

The event was a success, and an even larger one took place the following winter – but it would unfortunately come to an end when the palace burned to the ground in 1916.

How You Can Help

The Truckee Donner Land Trust needs your help. This campaign will be a community effort to raise the necessary funds to forever protect the property and open it to the public.

Every donation helps turn this dream into a reality, and the Land Trust offers a multitude of ways to give CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW.
Donors of $10,000 or more will be recognized on the property, and naming opportunities are available. Contact our Director of Philanthropy, Kate Frankfurt, at, or (530)582-4711 with any questions or requests.