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More than 100 people gathered at the foot of a rustic-looking bridge that traverses a scenic creek deep in a secluded canyon Tuesday to celebrate the expansion of Placer County’s Hidden Falls Regional Park.

The expanded park is now open to the public for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and other outdoor pursuits from sunrise to sunset 365 days per year.

Tuesday’s celebration was a grand-opening ceremony held to mark expansion of the park from 221 to almost 1,200 acres. The expansion added 23 miles of additional trails, more waterfall access, bridges, and new picnic areas.

“What a great celebration,” said Placer County Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt, a board member since 1995. He told the crowd that the inspiration for the park came from a 1997 board decision to make preserving the county’s open space a higher priority.

That decision led to the creation of the county’s award-winning Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program in 2000.  Both the original park and the second-phase property were acquired by the county through Placer Legacy.

“I’m just delighted to be out here today,” added Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, emphasizing that Placer County is fiscally conservative, but progressive and forward-thinking in efforts to preserve its natural resources.

The site of Tuesday’s ceremony is located near the 30-foot waterfall that gave the park its name. An observation deck offers close-up views of the waterfall.

The park is at 7587 Mears Place in the foothills between Auburn and Lincoln. It is north of Mt. Vernon Road in the Garden Bar area.

The park’s first phase featured a parking lot with an equestrian-staging area, restrooms and seven miles of trails, including a paved handicapped-accessible trail. A plan is under way to provide additional parking as soon as possible.

Other key supporters of the park include the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Lucile Packard Foundation, REI Inc., the Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition, Sun City Lincoln Hills Hiking Club and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Alvis of the Natural Resources Agency spoke during Tuesday’s ceremony, saluting Placer County for its efforts to preserve important natural resources such as oak woodlands and for restoring key wildlife habitats. 

The list of speakers also included Chairman David Tooker of the Placer County Parks Commission, Executive Director Jeff Darlington of the Placer Land Trust and Assistant Executive Director Dave Means of the California Wildlife Conservation Board. The master of ceremonies was Jim Durfee, director of the county’s Facility Services Department.
Placer County created Placer Legacy in response to rapid population growth in Placer County.
The program’s goals include protecting creeks, forests, farmland, recreational lands and other natural resources that are critical to the quality of life in Placer County.

To date, Placer Legacy has helped preserve almost 9,100 acres throughout the county in cooperation with partners such as the Trust for Public Land, Placer Land Trust and Truckee Donner Land Trust.