Valley Trail : History
The following is a collection
of articles which appeared in the Friends of Hope Valley Newsletters over
the past years. This history will provide the background concerning the
Friends efforts to keep a public trail open to the public.
Laird Investigates The Trail
We haven’t forgotten you. The Washoe Indians
used you to access the high country. You were a route taken by Fremont
and Walker in their 1840’s explorations of the Sierra. You have
enabled hikers to access the Mokelumne Wilderness and Pacific Crest Trail
for decades. And you have allowed families of Alpine County’s eastern
Sierra slope to share beautiful Pleasant Valley with their neighbors and
friends. Now a private landowner has closed access to you. Our attempts
to communicate with him concerning the rights held by the public to walk
along his land have been unsuccessful.
We have asked Assemblyman John Laird whether this could be an Attorney
General issue. We will keep you advised.
Fall 2007 Newsletter
Pleasant Valley is a beautiful meadow in southern
Alpine County, located just south of Markleeville. Pleasant Valley Trail
courses along the perimeter of this meadow. This trail has enjoyed a long
history of use beginning with the Washoe Indians. It was first used as
a trade route between the Washoe and the Yosemite Miwok. During the silver
rush in Nevada, the trail served as a way to Nevada cities from Raymond
and Silver Cities. With the creation of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
in 1945, many individuals have hiked Pleasant
Valley Trail to access the PCT. Throughout their history the trail and
Pleasant Valley Road have functioned as a route into the Mokelumne Wilderness.
The Department of Fish and Game used the trail and road for approximately
twenty years to establish and maintain a fish hatchery used to stock nearby
lakes and rivers, including Pleasant Valley Creek. The trail was featured
in a 1963 Sunset magazine as a trail the public could use to access Raymond
Lake and fish for golden trout.
Portions of the road and trail are on land owned by ranchers who allowed
the public use of the trail for many years. In August of 1999 the owner
placed a gate across Pleasant Valley road, one mile from the trailhead.
He was frustrated with the amount of trash people were leaving on his
property and concerned that some users were abusing the meadow.
The Friends of Hope Valley has long been interested in reopening public
access to Pleasant Valley Trail. The Friends has attempted to engage the
owner in a discussion as to how to open the trail to the public while
ensuring that his property is fully protected, but so far those efforts
have been unsuccessful.
Nevertheless, the Friends believes that there is a strong legal argument
that the trail is subject to a public right of way and has retained a
law firm to provide it with legal counsel in support of the effort to
open the trail to public access.
The owner has shown good stewardship toward the land with his grazing
practices, and we look forward to working with him to resolve this issue
in a way that protects both his interests and the public's right to wilderness
Fall 2008 Newsletter
Pleasant Valley Trail: Its
Readers of this newsletter are vaguely familiar
with the background of the Friends of Hope Valley’s attempts to
reopen Pleasant Valley Trail to the public, a trail we believe was closed
illegally by a rancher whose property a portion of the trail crosses.
Below is a brief summary of the events leading to the present.
The Friends has been struggling with the unlawful closure to the public
of Pleasant Valley Trail, a trail in a central Alpine County valley with
its trailhead southwest of Markleeville, since 1999 when a well-respected
rancher, Fredrick Dressler, placed a gate across the county road leading
to Pleasant Valley. Portions of its road and trail cross Dressler family
property. He was frustrated with individuals abusing his valley’s
meadow and trail.
Throughout its history the trail has functioned as an access point into
the Mokelumne Wilderness, and since 1945, to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
There is long history of public trail use - a trail that was a Washoe
trading route. Historians believe that John Fremont may have used a portion
of this trail to cross the Sierra; during the Nevada Silver Rush, the
trail served as a route to Nevada cities. The Department of Fish and Game
used the trail for approximately twenty years to establish and maintain
a fish hatchery and to stock nearby Pleasant Valley Creek. There has also
been a many-decades-long history of recreational use of the trail. The
trail was featured in a 1963 Sunset Magazine as a trail the public could
use to access Raymond Lake and fish for golden trout. This is reflected
on numerous recreational trail maps of the region. The history of extended
and continuous public use is more than sufficient, we believe, to show
an implied public dedication of the trail for public use under longstanding
California law. Our greatest concern is the impact the closure has had
on PCT hikers seeking assistance.
Shortly after the trail’s closure the Friends met with members of
the Dressler family and discussed options to keep the trail open, alternatives
they rejected. They had not responded to our letters … until this
The Case to Reopen Pleasant Valley Trail
Despite FHV’s extensive efforts over several
years, it has been unable to reach a compromise with the Dresslers that
would allow a limited public trail easement in Pleasant Valley. As a result,
FHV is poised to file a lawsuit against the Dresslers to ensure that the
public’s right of access to the trail is recognized and the public
is again allowed to use the trail. The lawsuit would ask a judge to recognize
that the public’s extensive and diverse use of the trail over the
past century has given rise to a public easement over the trail that the
Dresslers cannot legally interfere with. It would seek an injunction to
prevent the Dresslers from blocking access to the trail in the future.
Trail runs in front of the sign then off to the right hugging the slope
of the mountains and the floor of the valley.
We are eager to record the memories of anyone who has used the scenic
trails that pass along side of and through Pleasant Valley, leading into
the Mokulomne Wilderness and up to the Pacific Crest Trail.
THE LITTLE MOUSE THAT
FOHV’s US District Court Trial Date Set
More than ten years after the Dressler family closed
trails through Pleasant Valley – trails used by the public for hundreds
years to access the Alpine County high country, including the Pacific
Crest Trail (PCT) and the Mokelumne Wilderness Area – the United
States District Court for the Eastern District of California has set a
jury trial date of January 11, 2011 for FOHV v. Frederick Company, et
Currently FOHV is engaged in a time- and resource-intensive process of
pre-trial discovery, which must be completed by August 6, 2010. As the
trial date approaches, FOHV is in need of both additional witnesses for
the case who used the trails before and during the 1970s and financial
support for its legal efforts.
The trails were closed in 1999. During the years following the trails’
closure, FOHV tried to persuade the landowner to voluntarily reopen these
trails for public use. For eight years all efforts to come to an amicable
resolution were rebuffed. With no other recourse, FOHV filed a lawsuit
in an effort to reopen the trails.
FOHV has engaged the eminent San Francisco environmental law firm Shute,
Mihaly & Weinberger LLP (SMW) in pursuing the goal of reopening the
closed trails to the public. Attorneys Matthew Zinn of SMW and Rod Kerr
of Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP filed the lawsuit on FOHV’s behalf.
FOHV’s position is that the long history of continuous public use
of the trails in Pleasant Valley has created by implied dedication public
easements where the trails cross private land. There is ample evidence
demonstrating lengthy historical use. Washoe tribes used the trails to
access the high country. A map drawn by a state judge in 1864 depicts
a trail running through Pleasant Valley, as do USGS topographic maps of
If you or someone you know enjoyed visiting Pleasant Valley during or
before the 1970s, please send this information to email@example.com
or to the address below. It is crucial that we identify as many witnesses
as possible to demonstrate that Pleasant Valley was widely used by the
public during these years.
FOHV is also reaching out to organizations and individuals who are like-minded
for donations to fund the continuing pursuit of victory in this lawsuit.