May 16, 2011

Supes OK ‘depot-like’ structure for RR park

Media Gallery News
SUPPORTERS of the El Dorado Depot gather to recreate an historical photo from around 1920. Many of the supporters pictured here volunteered to clear brush and clean up the area surrounding the depot. Photo by Jason Bross
SUPPORTERS of the El Dorado Depot gather to recreate an historical photo from around 1920. Many of the supporters pictured here volunteered to clear brush and clean up the area surrounding the depot. Photo by Jason Bross
Long-time local rancher Ed Hagen lives near the proposed Railroad Park in El Dorado. In fact his ranch and property are found on both sides of the railroad tracks that used to connect Camino and Placerville to Sacramento. Back on March 8,  it came to the attention of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors that Hagen had taken it upon himself to begin constructing a model of an old-time, railroad freight shed near the original El Dorado train depot.
In fact, Hagen told the board at the time that he had custom-ordered much of the lumber to be used for the construction and that it needed to be used sooner rather than later.
County Department of Transportation Director Jim Ware told the board at the same time that he had directed Hagen, in effect, to cease and desist due to concerns that the structure may have been “in the middle of where an authorized one needs to be, and then we have a problem.”
Supervisors grumbled about government getting in the way of citizens trying to do good deeds but backed Ware’s decision for the time being.
Tuesday, the board rewarded old-fashioned individualism when it authorized locating the now-completed building from the railpark parking lot onto “or near the original depot site on the SPTC-JPA right-of-way near the town of El Dorado.”
The structure, approximately 36 feet long by 18 feet wide and about 15 feet high at its peak, looks just like an authentic railyard building. It is painted a pale yellow and sports tan trim and gingerbread struts holding up the oversized eaves. It currently rests under a large oak tree on top of log skids and jury rigged stacks of scrap wood at each corner. A concrete foundation upon which it could fit has been constructed about 100 yards east of the El Dorado Community Hall.
On Tuesday’s board agenda, Supervisors Ray Nutting and Jack Sweeney had recommended that the supervisors “consider” a five-point proposal that could lead to formally installing the building at the railpark site.
First was “discuss approval of Ed Hagen’s proposal to move his reproduction to, or near, the original depot site.” Next: Consider a “fee waiver,” that is consider not charging Hagen or others for use of the county’s property. Third: “Discuss with staff the process necessary to move forward.” Fourth: Forward board direction to the Joint Powers Authority for consideration” (El Dorado County shares jurisdiction over the railroad right of way with the Sacramento Placerville Transportation Corridor Joint Powers Authority) and Fifth: “Direct staff to implement the board’s intent and return with the appropriate agenda items as necessary.”
A sixth point was added to the motion that received unanimous approval — that county counsel study and review all the preceding directives before any final decision is made.
Sweeney, who represents El Dorado as part of District 3, opened the discussion in praise of independent citizen action and against a “government that has got so hung up on red tape compared to when we used to be able to get things done. People will get to enjoy their trip to El Dorado, even though it’s not quite accurate as a replica.
“The business of government is to take risks, and we are taking risks,” Sweeney challenged.
Several members of the audience spoke in favor of the proposal. Kathleen Newell reminded the board that the “building is temporary and that people should be able to start enjoying it.”
Sue Taylor, a building designer from Camino, offered her services as well as those of other volunteers to “make the building compliant” with building codes or other regulations.
Other perspectives, however, were also in evidence.
Bob Smart, a member of the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission, who has been a significant force for development of the El Dorado Trail as well as a strong advocate for the region’s culture and history, registered strong disapproval.
“I would urge you to vote no on this,” Smart cautioned. “There’s been no meetings of people who have concerns. We’ve got to start doing things differently, not just (going along with) whoever gets to the Board of Supervisors first. Why are they letting this one guy do something when there are a lot of people out there who are not being considered?”
Smart’s concerns, however, were overshadowed by board Chairman Ray Nutting’s nostalgic and emotional description of the project.
“I’m utterly amazed at the ‘can do’ attitude out in El Dorado,” Nutting said, remarking on the work of numerous volunteers. “Imagine the stories that will be told for generations about that effort. (We can) make it part of our future and let those stories be told.”
Keith Berry, president of the El Dorado Western Railroad Foundation, a subdivision of the El Dorado County Historical Museum, and a prime mover of the effort to re-establish railroading in El Dorado County, called the completion of Hagen’s building a “wonderful expression of the community trying to make something on behalf of the community. It’s a fine presentation of a historical railroad design.”
Berry was quick to point out also that the work was not a “railroad project,” but rather the work of Ed Hagen who “assembled a qualified team of volunteers from the skilled trades.”
“I really believe he did a great job even though the building is still considered just temporary,” Berry continued. “And as times continue to be so challenging for the public sector and there is a new world order of economics, the county will probably have to rely more on the volunteer sector. How the county administers that process (remains to be seen).”
Berry said his investigations suggest that the historical depot was farther east than the foundation for the new building and that consequently, there is “no space conflict with the historical building.”
On the downside, however, he described a recent meeting of the Joint Powers Authority as a “three-ring circus” regarding the actual legal ownership of the railroad tracks. And tipping his hat to county supervisors for “working their magic;I look forward to seeing the legal decision as to who owns the track,” Berry said.
DOT’s Ware told the Mountain Democrat Wednesday afternoon that while there’s no conflict between the new foundation and the original depot’s location, “I can’t encourage people to go out and build on or remove anything from county property — that would be the same wrong.”
He acknowledged that while Hagen may not have observed all the customary steps typical to making use of public property, “It was well-known that he was going to do it and there was a conceptual” description of the building and the foundation.
Ware further explained that his direction from the board as of Tuesday is “to facilitate making that happen, and I fully intend to work toward having the building put on that foundation.”
Friends of the El Dorado Trail spokesman Mike Kenison spoke positively not only about the building but about the volunteer effort it took to get the project done. He said the location of the structure should have no effect on future siting of the trail.
“We are volunteers as he is, and he’s done some incredible things. We certainly want to see volunteers making things happen. The building is pretty cute, and it’s a great place to offer train rides,” Kenison said and added that Hagen had reached out and offered the trails folks use of the building as well.
Ware further explained that his direction from the board at this point is open-ended, that is, there is no date-certain when he should return to update supervisors on the progress of the issue.
E-mail Chris Daley at or call 530-344-5063.

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