Whiskeytown National Recreation Area park Superintendent Jim Milestone, left, jokes with coworker Gary Bischof Saturday during the Shasta-Trinity Trail's "golden spike" ceremony of its grand opening. Photo Greg Barnette/Record Searchlight
By David Benda - Copyright 2009 Record Searchlight
WHISKEYTOWN NATIONAL RECREATION AREA - Mark Gonzalez and Camille Robertson have left an indelible mark on the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.
As part of a 16-member Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew, they spent nine weeks sweating in the north state's stifling summer heat to carve out the final segment of the Shasta-Trinity Trail through the heart of the park, connecting Whiskeytown's trail system on the east side with the park's west side.
On Saturday, the two college students, seven of their team members, and other volunteers who have been a driving force in getting the trail built celebrated its grand opening by placing a ceremonial "golden spike" into a boulder near the new trailhead at Sheep Camp.
"It was really monotonous work, but you had to tell yourself to keep going," said Gonzalez, a 19-year-old sophomore at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. "But it's going to help the community. I just get tremendous satisfaction from that."
Saturday's festivities drew about 75 people, including representatives from the Friends of Whiskeytown, the Redding Mountain Bike Club, the Lemurian Shasta Classic mountain bike race and the city of Redding, all of whom made significant contributions.
A variety of grants from the Redding Foundation, McConnell Foundation, Shasta Regional Community Foundation and Friends of Whiskeytown were used to build the trail.
The Shasta-Trinity Trail, which has been under construction since the summer of 2007, is the largest trail project that the National Park Service has built at Whiskeytown, park Superintendent Jim Milestone told the crowd.
"This is a great day to celebrate with all the community support," Milestone said.And the support came from across the country.
Robertson, 18, lives in Massachusetts and will start her freshman year at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in two weeks. It's the third summer that Robertson has been an SCA volunteer. She was the youngest crew member working at Whiskeytown this summer.
"I was looking for a backcountry experience," Robertson said of her work at Whiskeytown. "It's been fun, but very hard and challenging work. It's extremely satisfying to walk down a smooth trail that used to be a slippery slope earlier in the day."
SCA volunteers worked eight-hour days, cutting brush and digging out paths. They received a $75 weekly stipend for food while the park provided lodging and transportation.
Gonzalez's parents and sister traveled from Corpus Christi, Texas, to help celebrate the grand opening.
"We are very proud of what he's accomplished," said Gonzalez's father, David Gonzalez. "We got to walk it a little bit. It just beautiful."
Jay Watson, SCA's western regional director, said his group has logged some 10,000 hours over the past three years at Whiskeytown.
Using existing trails and new paths, the Shasta-Trinity Trail will allow people to walk or bike from the Sundial Bridge in Redding through the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Eventually, the trail will carry on to Lewiston in Trinity County and link to the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
The Shasta-Trinity Trail links the Brandy Creek Falls Trail with the Boulder Creek Falls Trail. It passes over Papoose Gulch on the shoulder of Shasta Bally Mountain.
Reporter David Benda can be reached at 225-8219 or at email@example.com.