Conservation groups buy 3,000 acres on Donner Summit

Ending a battle to preserve a historic piece of the Sierra Nevada crest, conservation groups recently finalized their purchase of the 3,000-acre Royal Gorge property on Donner Summit.

The cross-country ski resort had been placed in receivership after the Bay Area developers who bought it in 2005 defaulted on a $16.7-million bank loan. They had proposed building 950 condos and single-family houses on the acreage, setting off protests from environmentalists and nearby homeowners.

The Truckee Donner Land Trust and The Trust for Public Land closed on the property Dec. 20, paying $11.25 million. The groups, working as part of the Northern Sierra Partnership, expect to receive $4 million to $5 million in state bond money and federal conservation funds to cover a portion of the purchase price. The rest is coming from private sources, including several million dollars more that will be used for trail and recreation improvements.

The Truckee Donner trust will hold title to the property, limiting its uses to recreation and conservation. The nearby Sugar Bowl alpine ski resort has signed a deal to manage Royal Gorge’s winter operations.

“This is a landscape that has been critical to California,” said Sam Hodder, state director of the Trust for Public Land, noting that the conservation purchase will link Royal Gorge holdings to adjacent national forest lands.

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