Two more yellow sections on the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway’s trail map will soon become green and open for the public as progress continues on the ambitious trail project. The intended trail map reaches from Tahoe City to Pyramid Lake—a 116-mile trip one-way. Since its inception in 2003, the non-profit has completed several large sections of the trail, including the paths from Tahoe City to Truckee, Verdi to Vista, and Wadsworth to Pyramid Lake. A path that begins in Mustang and stretches for nine miles toward Clark Station will open next week, and the Fleish Section, between Floriston and Verdi, is expected to be ready late next summer.
For Janet Phillips, a lifelong cyclist and president of the Bikeway, the trail is a passion project and a needed resource in the community.
“I just thought, ‘Aren’t we missing a really cool attraction?” said Phillips. “There are so many environmental changes and a lot of history. It’s easy to miss the beauty when you’re cruising by in your car at 60 miles an hour.”
The Bikeway was originally founded as a nonprofit under the Nevada Land Conservancy before branching off into its own group. The organization pays for the trail through private grants and donations, and a core team of volunteers take on much of the planning and outreach. According to Phillips, several regional civil engineering firms have donated their time and skills for free to help design the trail. Once parts of the trail are completed, they are handed over to the local government for maintenance and ownership. The open trails have been well received by local communities in California and Nevada.
“The areas that are open and in bigger towns are seeing around 200 bikes a day,” said Phillips. “The rural areas are dirt so they don’t get as much traffic, but overall the trail is getting a lot of use.”
But several factors have pushed the completion date back for as much as 20 more years, estimated Phillips.
“I thought when we started in 2003, we’d be done in five years,” she said. “But it’s a long process.”
The two biggest obstacles involve geographical challenges and land use disputes. Many of the geography issues can be solved with enough funding and creative engineering. But finding a way to work with landowners who don’t want a trail through their property has proved difficult.
“There are two types of landowners we’ve heard from: the ones who have a legitimate concern and say, ‘We don’t want people camping and starting wildfires,’” said Phillips. “The other kind are those who think that homeless people or hippies will be the ones using the trail, and they say, ‘I don’t want you people in my neighborhood.’”
Phillips is optimistic about overcoming these issues. She hopes that once reluctant landowners see that the trail won’t negatively impact their property, they will be more willing to work with the group. She also hopes that supporters will be patient as they find ways to complete the trail.
“Twenty years seems like a long time for many people,” said Phillips. “But it’s a big project. Someone said to me, ‘If it were easy, it’d be done already.’”