he land had previously been owned by the Michigan-California Timber Co. which allowed hikers to pass through the privately-owned section of trail on an easement. It is now owned by the U.S. Forest Service and open to hikers and adventurers as public land.

After five years of work, what’s known as the Trinity Divide Project closed last week, transferring ownership of 17 once-private miles of trail adjacent to the PCT to the public.

The land had previously been owned by the Michigan-California Timber Co. which allowed hikers to pass through the privately-owned section of trail on an easement. It is now owned by the U.S. Forest Service and open to hikers and adventurers as public land.

The partnership effort included the Pacific Crest Trail Association, The Trust for Public Land, the Michigan-California Timber Company, the U.S. Forest Service, private donors and the surrounding local communities, including Mount Shasta, which was last year identified as an official “Trail Town.”

The Trinity Divide Project is similar to the effort that’s happening now near Castle Lake. The Washington-based Wilderness Land Trust closed escrow on more than 600 acres of land adjacent to the iconic lake with plans to eventually transfer the acreage to public ownership through the U.S. Forest Service.

In the case of the PCT acreage, the Trust for Public Land, based in San Francisco, fronted $15 million for the purchase of parcels that are in a 225-square mile area in the Trinity Mountains, some of which falls in Siskiyou County.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday approved nearly $10 million in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to complete the purchase.

“It’s the largest appropriation the PCT has ever received in a single year and the largest appropriation for a Forest Service project this year,” according to a blog post about the project written by the PCTA’s Director of Land Protection, Megan Wargo.

Project funding was also secured from private donations, a grant from The Wyss Foundation and significant funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” according to a press release from the PCTA.

Located in the Trinity Alps section of the PCT, the acquisition will create new public access, ensure that trail users will continue to enjoy a scenic outdoor experience, and preserve biologically diverse landscapes, said Wargo. “You might not know it if you were out there, but starting just north of the Gumboot trailhead and continuing for nearly 30 miles to the Scott Mountain trailhead, PCT users pass through a checkerboard of public and private land,” according to the PCTA.

“The checkerboard ownership pattern is the legacy of the 1862 railroad land grants, which gave every other section of federal land along a proposed rail corridor to the railroad companies, the PCTA said.

It was a way of opening the west to settlement and development as well as increasing the value of the remaining public land in a bygone era. In more modern times, this public-private land pattern has created problems for public access and ecological management across the western United States. The checkerboard ownership pattern is the leading cause for private inholdings within national forest boundaries,” the PCTA said.

The 10,600 acres is now available for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, camping and exploration as part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forests, the PCTA added.