From the RGJ:
River restoration project creates new pathways
Nearly two-thirds of bikeway completed
The Nature Conservancy completed a decade long $6.5 million beautification effort May 6 on the river east of Sparks traveling through McCarran Ranch and Mustang Ranch. “The lower river has not had public access for people to enjoy for many decades,” Nature Conservancy spokesman Michael Cameron said. “The land, up until recently, has all been privately owned.” The nine-mile stretch, with its new public affiliation, has given Janet Phillips a leg up in her vision of a 116-mile bike path that follows the river. That leg up comes seven years to the month after the project completed its first achievement with the completion of the Mogul-Verdi bike path.
The Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway will celebrate the seventh anniversary of that path Sunday. Nearly two-thirds of the path along the river has been completed since the project started in 2003, Phillips said. “I was stunned how beautiful it is,” Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway treasurer Terry McAfee said of the new portion of the trail east of Sparks. “The river has been used over the years as a place to put the railroad, a sewage dump; some of it is pretty rough, but out there it is just stunningly beautiful and a fairly nice bike ride.”
The problem with this portion of the river started in the 1960s with flood-control projects that straightened the river and increased the stream’s velocity, the Nature Conservancy says. However, the velocity of the stream eroded the river and pushed its bed about three feet lower, Cameron said.
“The idea was to get floodwaters out of Reno more quickly,” Cameron said. “The straightened channel resulted in the lowering of the groundwater table and native plants died and disappeared.”
Since 2003, the Nature Conservancy, with federal and state money, has worked on meandering projects to bring the river back to its pre-1960s path.
The conservancy also added native plants as part of the restoration effort. The plants include cottonwood trees, willows and buffalo berry shrubs. The McCarran Ranch Preserve now includes hiking, fishing, bird watching, canoeing and biking opportunities.
The Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway contributed a dirt path north of the river through the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, Phillips said. The newly adopted trail connects three different Nature Conservancy efforts along the nine-mile stretch. “It’s interesting because you can see McCarran Ranch is the most mature of these things, so the plants are grown up, and it looks very nice,” Phillips said.