Biz as usual at Little Sweden

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

The removal of vacant buildings at Little Sweden last winter will likely be the last action taken by the county in relation to the Highway 108 property.

Carlyn Drivdahl, an attorney with the Tuolumne County Counsel, said on Monday that while sledders and snow-seeking visitors on the site are technically trespassing, the county is not involved in managing the privately-owned land.

"As far as the county is concerned, we're out of it," Drivdahl said.

Located on Highway 108 on the way to Pinecrest and Dodge Ridge, the abandoned snow play area is a popular destination for visitors looking for a free spot to sled or play in the snow. Little Sweden was originally a small ski resort with a rope tow. It's been all but abandoned for decades.

Until last year, the site included empty restaurant and lodge buildings. The county boarded up the buildings in 2010 and in February 2012 tore them down out of safety concerns. The county also removed old equipment on the site for safety reasons.

Property owner Donald Williams, who has a post office box in Mi-Wuk Village, had to pay for the job. Drivdahl said the county only stepped in after multiple break-ins and vandalism incidents at the buildings.

Now that the site is clean, the county would only step in if another concern arises like people using it as an illegal dump.

"It was a public health and safety issue at that point," she said. "It was a fire hazard. It was filled with trash and debris. That's why the county got involved."

The popular spot still poses some problems, especially for law enforcement officials dealing with illegal parking on or near Highway 108. The CHP regularly writes tickets on weekends at the site, and "No Parking" signs are posted.The hill's proximity to the highway has also caused concern.

Nick Norton, spokesman for the CHP's Jamestown office, said the recent conditions led to a good amount of visitation at the site over the Christmas holiday. Norton said the parking issue is an ongoing concern, but he also pointed out that people playing at the site often don't act as if they're right next to a highway. Often they will run across Highway 108 in snowy conditions and park over the line.

Officers will usually try and keep some sort of presence at the site to remind people to follow parking laws and keep safe.

"We generally try and give a kind of generic warning as we pass through, and then we turn around and write the parking tickets," Norton said. "We're just trying to make sure everyone's safe."

The Union Democrat
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