SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - As the sun set Tuesday, the pinks, purples and oranges drifted through the clouds and mirrored perfectly in the glassy waters of the "Lake of the Sky."
Without a doubt it was one of those Tahoe moments no one wants to miss. For this sunset, though, there was a new place to watch: Lakeview Commons.
"Look at that," murmured Joel Tanjuakio, a visitor from Tracy, as he stood in awe at the top of the new park. "It's beautiful."
City officials removed fencing from Lakeview Commons last week and since then the new park has had a consistent stream of visitors. For many it was their first view of the new design and for some it was the first view of that part of South Lake Tahoe at all.
Chris Stetler, a South Lake Tahoe resident, helped the city engineer parts of the project. He got his first view of the completed work Tuesday.
"I think it looks fantastic," Stetler said. "It's so much more open and easier to pass through here."
Eric Valenzuela grew up near Lakeview Commons. He remembered the eroding slope and the rickety old staircase that was there before the project began.
"It's a well-deserved improvement," Valenzuela said, as he sat with some friends enjoying the view. "It seems like there will be a lot of seating for people."
Though the sprawling terraces, new barbecues, two-story boathouse and wide accessible walkway to the beach are what visitors see, there's a lot to Lakeview Commons that doesn't meet the eye. Underneath all the masonry and landscaping are a series of stormwater tanks that will catch rain and runoff from the stretch of U.S. Highway 50 as well as what falls on the park itself.
"The thing about this that's amazing is that when it rains you'll never see any discharge," Stetler said, adding that some of the material used is porous and allows water to flow right through to the filtration system.
The California Tahoe Conservancy funded the $7.5 million project. There's been talk of a second phase that would extend the Commons east along the shore, but nothing is confirmed, though hopes abound.
"I'm just hoping that it keeps moving forward because it's such a centralized park and it has so much potential," Stetler said.
There's still work to be done before the project is complete. The interior of the boathouse needs to be finished. Picnic tables will be installed in the barbecue area after winter. More vegetation will finish out the landscaping in the spring. And the city must plan a grand opening.
But for the time being, visitors and locals alike are free to walk the new path, have coffee on the new patio, or catch a sunset from the stone shelves.