Outdoor Visitor Safety Fund

Nevada County Approves Grants for SYRCL’s River Ambassadors and Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project

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On August 8, 2023, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved two grant award agreements between the County of Nevada and South Yuba River Citizens League for Outdoor Visitor Safety Fund” grants funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and General Fund dollars from the approved Fiscal Year 2023/2024 budget. 

SYRCL’s Executive Director Aaron Zettler-Mann was in attendance to advocate for SYRCL’s programs and their role in recreation safety for our community and the impact they have on the tourism industry. 

The first grant came in the amount of $16,700 for SYRCL’s River Ambassador Program to deliver safety and river stewardship information to as many visitors as possible.  

With this funding, SYRCL will invest additional staff time to hire and coordinate bilingual River Captains, create bi-lingual messaging, recruit additional volunteers, and schedule weekday shifts to book-end busy holiday weekends to help State Parks deal with the increase in visitors to the Yuba River and ensure that River Ambassadors is a culturally competent visitor education program.   

In general, the River Ambassador program works by recruiting and training volunteer educators (aka River Ambassadors). The program then stations volunteer ambassadors with River Captains at heavily utilized public access points during the summer. They set up information booths, greet visitors, share important safety information, point out trail routes, raise awareness of fire risks, and provide bags and tins to pack out bottles, cans, and cigarette butts. River Ambassadors also model responsible behaviors by removing trash, bottles, cans, bottle caps, glass, and dog waste, and discussing the importance of responsible river stewardship and fire safety. During the busy summer recreation season, State Parks relys on River Ambassadors to relay safety information in English and Spanish in addition to promoting awareness of hazardous river conditions and wildfire dangers.   

The second grant was for $59,000 for the Van Norden Meadow Restoration and Recreation Project. This grant helps fund the development of trailheads at Van Norden Meadow, as part of the larger Van Norden Meadow Restoration and Recreation Project, on Donner Summit in the Tahoe National Forest. This project is shovel ready and will result in two trailheads with native surface parking lots, double vault toilets, and trailhead and interpretive signage. 

The restoration portion of the Van Norden Meadow Restoration and Recreation Project focuses on restoring 485 acres of high elevation meadow that supports climate resilient habitat for a variety of avian, terrestrial, and aquatic species and produces outsized ecosystem benefits such as delayed peak season flows, increased groundwater levels, improved water quality, decreased high severity fire danger, and improved carbon storage capacity. The recreation portion of this project includes improving the existing user created trail system, adding new trail sections to create a cohesive trail loop around the meadow, building safe and accessible stream crossings, and adding two parking areas with bathrooms, trailheads, and educational signage. 

Public access opportunities to high elevation meadows are limited. These ecosystems support unique birding, wildlife viewing, fishing, and recreation opportunities but are often not equipped with trails that are ADA accessible, educational, or protective of sensitive habitats. Currently, Van Norden Meadow has a network of user created summer trails that are causing damage to sensitive wildlife habitat and are impinging on cultural resources. In tandem with the meadow restoration project that began construction in 2022, we will improve, reroute, connect and construct up to 5 miles of multi-use trail to enhance equitable access and maintain environmental quality by 1) minimizing the potential for disturbance to sensitive wildlife habitat through improved parking and trailhead areas with bathrooms, 2) providing ADA accessible trail access, including boardwalks and bridges, to this unique habitat, and 3) promoting the aesthetic and educational benefits that a restored meadow provides by building viewing platforms/decks and developing bilingual interpretive signage. 

SYRCL thanks the Nevada County Board of Supervisors for approving these grant award agreements and for continuing to partner with SYRCL for the benefit of Nevada County. 

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