Historic Pony Express Property in Nevada Protected

The historic Daggett Pass property, which contains a portion of the Pony Express trail, has been protected, The Trust for Public Land announced today. The 123-acre parcel has been added to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

The Daggett Pass property is located near the top of the historic Kingsbury Grade road, which connects the Carson Valley of Nevada with the nearby Lake Tahoe Basin. Once called the Vansickle Toll Road, the Kingsbury Grade road, which runs through the property, was part of the Pony Express route.

The property was sold by its owner, Patricia G. Baker, a resident of Carmichael, Calif., and the widow of Dr. John M. Baker, a native of Gardnerville, Nev., whose family acquired the parcel in the late 1930s. Mrs. Baker said that on a relatively flat area halfway up the grade, there was an area known as “Peters Station.” It was the site in the 1860s of a booming three-story hotel owned by Elizabeth and Richard Peters. The teamsters, and their heavy horse-drawn rigs, would spend the night, rest the horses, and enjoy dinner and a night’s sleep before the next day’s arduous climb.

Mrs. Baker said that, “from their arrival in 1913, Dr. Frank Harvey Baker, the first field veterinarian in Nevada, and his wife, Ida, became immersed in the life of Carson Valley, its vibrant beauty, vivacious activity, and the people who made it such a wonderful place to live. Its unique and early history was reflected in, and respected by, the community. Dr. Baker’s sons, John and Franklin, had the great luck of growing up in this valley. We hope that this gift will offer the opportunity for children of the valley to explore the hidden history of the Kingsbury Grade, enjoy its trails and wildlife, and view from the highest peak the green valley below their home.”

The $750,000 purchase price came from the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). The law lets money from lands sold by the BLM (which were identified for disposal in approved land use plans) be used to acquire private in-holdings in National Parks, National Forests, and BLM conservation areas.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been a key support of FLTFA and last month secured a one-year extension of the program, which would have expired in July 2010. FLTFA has been an important conservation tool in Nevada, allowing proceeds of federal land sales to stay in the state and help protect Nevada lands critically important for wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and public access.

Sen. Reid said, “The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation act has been a very successful conservation and historic preservation program in Nevada. FLTFA provides critical funds to help federal agencies protect fish and wildlife habitat, preserve culturally and historically significant places, and provide access to the public lands. The Daggett Pass project is an excellent example of FLTFA dollars going to protect important lands in Nevada, to improve public access to our open spaces, and to preserve our rich historical heritage for our children and grandchildren.”

The property will be managed by the Forest Service in coordination with Douglas County, Nev., which is turning part of the Old Kingsbury Grade into a segment of the Pony Express National Historic Trail. When that is complete, it will provide hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists with a route between the Tahoe Basin trail system and destinations in Carson Valley.

Carl Somers, TPL’s Senior Project Manager for the project, said, “It is gratifying that we have been able to preserve a place which has so much history and which will provide public access to the Tahoe Basin. This has been a team effort and we would have not succeeded without Mrs. Baker’s vision for this property, or the support of Sen. Reid and and our partners in Nevada.”

Jeanne Higgins, Forest Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, said, “This is a wonderful piece of property to have in public ownership. It has high value in providing habitat for a number of wildlife and fish species. It protects a portion of the Daggett creek watershed and also a portion of the old pony express trail. We are very grateful for the partnership that brought this piece of land into public ownership with special thanks to The Trust for Public Land.”

Michael A. Olson, Chairman of the Douglas Board of Commissioners, said “It is very rewarding to see some of the nearly $39 million dollar in proceeds from prior North County BLM land sales come back to benefit the public through this FLTFA acquisition.”