Daniel Ward's vision of what the Lake Tahoe Basin should look like in 20 years involves less litter and better public transportation.
"Litter is completely ignored ... and we need better buses, electric buses or electric trolleys like they have in San Francisco," said Ward, who lives in South Lake Tahoe and gets around town on his bike or by bus.
Ward's thoughts on transportation are not unique. Of the more than 150 people who attended a Pathway 2007 visioning workshop on Wednesday night, many mentioned the need to reduce traffic congestion in the basin. The solution, they suggested, is to provide different public transportation options to, from and around the lake.
The workshop, at Embassy Suites Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, was the first of five to be conducted this month throughout California and Nevada. The goal is to find out what the general public wants for the region before four agencies and select members of the public sit down and cobble together a 20-year land and resource management plan for the basin.
"The workshop exceeded our expectations," said Dave Ceppos, senior mediator leading Pathway 2007, a planning effort that involves the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
"It was a group of dedicated people and we got a good diversity of opinions," Ceppos said. "Their input will be very applied. There is nothing abstract about it."
People who attended the workshop had an opportunity to fill out surveys on 11 topics related to the environment. They also expressed their opinions in group discussions and by posting them on paper tablets.
"The vision should incorporate the highest stewardship ethically feasible," said R. Lynn, a South Shore resident. "Not the least common denominator compromise with development interests.
"Maybe things don't have to get stricter, maybe it's got to be smarter ... the TRPA must do a better job explaining the rules. If they can't be explained they need to be modified."
Alfred Knotts, who works in TRPA's Transportation Division, described the workshop as "very constructive" and said what he heard from the public is that there is a need for alternative forms of transportation.
"Everybody wants a train to Truckee," said Knotts, adding that most of the people spoke with said they're willing to pay some sort of tax to fund transportation projects. "We've done a lot of planning, but there are fiscal restraints. Sounds like an excuse, but it's a reality."
Another reality planners need to deal with is the evolution of recreation. Snowmobiling and mountain biking are more popular now than they were in 1988 when the Forest Service drafted the plan it uses for the basin today.
"Visioning is bringing in what the public's will is," said Maribeth Gustafson, forest supervisor for the Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. "Mountain biking of course is very prominent today and the trail systems aren't necessarily thought out to serve that segment of use. We need to hear from the public if they should be, and if so, how much."
Harold Singer, executive director of the Lahontan control board, the agency in charge of protecting water quality in the Tahoe region, said the visioning workshops are a crucial part of Pathway 2007 and that the turnout on Wednesday was encouraging.
"Discussions were going on everywhere," Singer said. "It seemed like everyone wanted to talk about something. There was an energy and willingness to put forward ideas and that's what we're trying to get at so this isn't just an agency-oriented process."
- Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org