Trail designer and landscaper Tom Hesseldenz presented an update on the Mossbrae Falls Trail project during Thursday evening’s Dunsmuir City Council meeting.
He said negotiations about land use issues are ongoing, and more is expected to be known within the next two months.
Hesseldenz has been a frequent name during Dunsmuir City Council meetings the past month due to his involvement in planning and restoring Tauhindauli Park.
He spoke on behalf of a local stakeholders group leading developments of the Mossbrae Falls Trail. The stakeholders include the City of Dunsmuir, the Saint Germain Foundation, Union Pacific, and the Mount Shasta Trail Association.
The proposed trail to Mossbrae Falls is ADA compliant and follows a 3% elevation grade. “The public would benefit from it, safety issues would be alleviated, and it’s of huge economic importance to the City of Dunsmuir,” Hesseldenz said.
Hesseldenz explained that people previously accessed the majestic waterfall from a bridge over Prospect Avenue. After the bridge washed out in the mid-1980s, visitors began taking a path through Shasta Springs Retreat.
“This doubled the distance, it made the path more arduous, and it comes with huge safety concerns,” he said.
The path from Shasta Retreat requires people to walk along active rail tracks, which is both illegal and dangerous.
“Union Pacific wants to resolve that, and they’ve been a driving force in this project,” Hesseldenz said.
He said when he originally tried getting the Mossbrae Falls Trail project started in 1991, the Saint Germain Foundation didn’t want to provide any public access to the area.
The Foundation owns a piece of land that the proposed trail would run through.
About five years ago, dialogue was reopened between Saint Germain Foundation and the other stakeholders in an attempt to make progress in building a safe trail to the falls.
“The initial response from the Saint Germain Foundation was positive,” Hesseldenz said, “but they thought the land would be valued at $75,000 per acre.”
After a partial appraisal revealed the land to be worth only $13,000 per acre, Hesseldenz said the Foundation began expressing concerns about aesthetic issues, and seemed to be worried that if they sold the land, they would lose all control over future developments. For example, he said the Foundation was worried that something like a concession stand might be built at the location.
“I don’t think there would ever be anything but a trail, but how can we assure them of that?” he said.
Hesseldenz said the initial appraisal of the 5.5 acres of land under negotiation worked out to a total amount of $70,000. “We upped the price to $100,000 to try to sweeten the pot, but that’s as far as anybody wanted to go.”
Councilor Bruce Deutsch asked Hesseldenz how he feels about the dialogue with Saint Germain Foundation now compared to 20 years ago.
“Just having a dialogue is a big change right there,” Hesseldenz answered. “It’s pretty clear that the Saint Germain Foundation is very private at Shasta Springs”
He said that entering into the agreement might be good publicity for the Foundation and provide them with an opportunity to show the world what they’re all about.
Mayor Dave Keisler suggested naming the trail after the Saint Germain Foundation. He said the Foundation clearly stated that, just because they’re entering negotiation, that does not mean they have any intent to sell.
Councilor Bryce Craig asked Hesseldenz if the stakeholders were holding any public meetings.
“We want to keep the public informed, but it’s really premature to hold a public hearing,” Hesseldenz replied. He said they hope to apply for state grants to cover CEQA costs and construction, but really need a willing seller before moving forward.
“Within the next two months we’ll find out what a full appraisal will cost and communicate with the Saint Germain Foundation about how to resolve some of the more recent land use issues,” said Hesseldenz, who concluded his presentation by saying, “We’re gonna keep at it, but that’s where we’re at right now.”