The project involves building two new trails and improving recreational amenities at Rice's Crossing Preserve (RCP) which is located in Nevada County. RCP is 2,707-acres and is owned and managed by Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT). RCP can be accessed from Rice's Crossing Road located 1/2 mile north of South Yuba River State Park and the historic covered bridge. The property is currently open to the public every day except Tuesday and Thursday, and the hours of operation are sunrise to sunset. There is a 3/4 mile long road that goes down to French Bar from the parking area that the public uses regularly. BYLT does not allow dogs, horses, or bikes on the French Bar Access Trail or anywhere on the south end of RCP. All new trails will be constructed in accordance with USFS trail construction standards and best management practices (BMPs). Trail grades have been limited to 8% throughout the project, except where physical constraints require a steeper grade to avoid rock outcrops, riparian areas, large trees or other environmental concerns. There are a number of trail segments that have grades of 10% to 12%, however they are located on rocky soils so that erosion is not a concern even with these steeper grades. Trail tread width will vary from 2 to 4 feet, depending on location, amount of use, and physical constraints. On steep, rocky slopes, the trail width will be narrow to minimize disturbance and to reduce trail construction costs. The two trails will be built using a mini excavator, chain saws, and a variety of hand tools. On site materials, including rock for retaining walls and fill, and soil for grading will be used for construction of the trails.
The Nevada County improvements include:
1) Create a 3/4 mile ADA trial that will start at the parking area and end on the service road near French Bar. The trail will provide public access to the land, link the parking area to French Bar with a trail, and showcase the biological diversity along the Yuba River.
2) Create a half-mile trail that goes upstream from French Bar called the Snowdrop Trail. This trail will end at a picnic location and provide access to the Yuba River for recreational experiences.
3) Provide information pertaining to the installation of a kiosk that will be located near the Trailhead and parking area. The kiosk will provide valuable information to the public about RCP.
4) Construct a 12' x 12' shade canopy and picnic table that will be built near the Trailhead and parking area.
5) Provide an ADA-compliant restroom will have a construction footprint of 60 sq. ft. The vault toilet will be a cinder block construction on a concrete pad with a 750-gallon holding tank.
Yuba County improvements include:
1) Improve a 0.9-mile existing trail that connects the Yuba Rim Trail to the Yuba River.
2) Improve two parking locations at the trailhead.
- The parking area located on the south side of Marysville Road will be graded and rocked to improve the slope and drainage of the area. Minimal land disturbance is anticipated (less than 5 cubic yards moved).
- The abandoned rock quarry on the north side of the road will accommodate equestrian parking. Minimal land disturbance is anticipated (less than 5 cubic yards moved).
3) An informational kiosk will be located at the Yuba Rim Trailhead and will provide valuable information to the public about RCP.
4) A 12' x 12' shade canopy and picnic table will be constructed near the trailhead in the meadow overlooking the Yuba River canyon.
The proposed project includes trail development and trail reconstruction in addition to an ADA restroom, kiosk signs, improvements to parking areas and light access road improvements. Plans for avoidance of oak habitat, watercourse and steep slopes have been incorporated into the project description in order to minimize impacts to environmental resources. Measures include timing construction to avoid impacts to a minimum with tree protection measures during construction, reducing the fire risk and promoting large diameter trees by reducing the fuel load of small diameter trees and brush under the dripline of oaks and conifers greater than 24 in. DBH, educational signage focusing on the wildfire habitat values of oak woodlands, signage of the prohibited uses, including dogs, mountain bikes, and horses and who to contact if violations are observed and minimizing potential introduction and spread of noxious weeds.
Measures that have been incorporated to protect the Yuba River and other watercourses include timing construction to avoid work in flowing water or during the nesting season (unless pre-construction surveys are conducted and buffers implemented), pre-construction clearance surveys within 100 ft of the river floodplain for foothill yellow-legged frog and western pond turtle, minimizing erosion and sedimentation at all stream crossings and the slopes above the streams, stabilizing disturbed soils, BMPs for spill prevention and control, minimizing the introduction and spread of noxious weeds, designating the streams as Environmentally Sensitive Areas with temporary construction fencing, educational signage on the functions and values of seasonal streams and the Middle Fork Yuba River.
Five plant communities were identified on the project site parcels: 1) canyon live oak woodland; 2) blue oak-interior live oak woodland; 3) ponderosa pine-black oak forest; 4) annual grassland, and 5) cottonwood-willow riparian woodland. The trail alignment affects only the ponderosa pine-black oak forest, canyon live oak woodlands, and a small segment of blue oak woodland, and the impacts limited to the forest and woodland understory. Because the alignment is narrow and linear, the canopy cover of the oak groves would not be adversely affected; trail construction would occur in the understory and only trees less than six in. DBH would be removed. No oaks would be removed for the parking lot and restroom additions and improvements nor would any construction occur within the dripline of oaks in the trailhead restroom area. The proposed driveway improvements are located within the dripline of several landmark oak groves; however, the driveway would not be widened; only some light surface grading would be required on the existing road prism for the purpose of laying new gravel. The proposed trailhead/restroom improvements would not result in any indirect impacts to oaks from removal or placement of fill in close proximity to the tree trunks, and no trenching would be required. Nevertheless, measures are included in the project description to avoid, minimize, or compensate for unavoidable direct and indirect impacts to landmark oak groves and their habitat values.
Waters of the US/waters of the State in the project area include four small, unnamed, short-duration intermittent streams, and eight ephemeral streams (streams that flow only during storm events). All are tributaries to the Middle Fork Yuba River. The two unnamed intermittent "blue line" streams shown on the USGS 7.5 minute topographic map (French Corral quadrangle) within the boundaries of the three parcels are well outside the project area for the proposed trail construction. The Middle Fork Yuba River and its riparian zone also occur outside the trail project area but in close proximity. Construction of the ADA trail will require the placement of two culverts - both in intermittent streams. Because the other streams are so small (generally less than 30 in. wide and an inch. deep at ordinary high water mark, no other stream crossings would require alteration of the channel or placement of fill.
No federally-listed threatened or endangered animal species were found in the project area, nor are they expected to occur in these areas sue either to the absence of suitable breeding habitat onsite The nearest documented bad eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests are over 2.5 miles away (Bullards Bar Reservoir and Collins Lake). However, a bald eagle, a CDFW Fully Protected species, could potentially nest in any large, old-growth, or dominant live tree with open branches, if present in the project area. No nests or potential nest trees were observed along the trail alignment but their occurrence elsewhere on the property or near the trail alignment could occur, therefore, pre-construction nesting bird surveys are proposed as part of the project description.
No federally-listed threatened or endangered plant species were found in the project area, nor are they expected to occur in these areas due either to the absence of suitable habitat and known occurrences in the project vicinity. Foothill yellow-legged frogs (Rana boylii), a former CDFW Species of Special Concern recently upgraded to a CESA Candidate species, is documented eight miles upstream of the confluence of the South Yuba River, on the river and larger tributaries. Several occurrences of western pond turtle (Emys marmorata), a CDFW Species of Special Concern, are documented within 10 miles of the project area, the closest about 1.25 miles to the south on tributaries and manmade ponds. While neither species is expected to use the ephemeral and short-duration intermittent streams, both species could potentially occur in backwater pools on the floodplain of the river where it comes in close proximity to the trail. Pre-construction clearance surveys for foothill yellow-legged frog and western pond turtle are included in the project description.