State officials are looking for resident feedback to help shape the future of some of the most picturesque and oft-used recreation spots along the north and east shores of Lake Tahoe.
The Nevada Division of State Parks plans to adopt an updated general management plan for Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, said park supervisor Jay Howard, and input over the next several weeks on planning issues, user needs, enhanced environmental protection and potential park management or development opportunities is crucial for the plan to be finished by year’s end.
Feedback will be rolled into a “guiding document the next 20 years” for the park, Howard said, which comprises Sand Harbor, Spooner Backcountry and Cave Rock, among other areas.
“This park is very important to the agency,” Howard said during a presentation at the April Incline Village/Crystal Bay Citizen Advisory Board meeting. “The agency is sensitive to Lake Tahoe. They understand this ... is the crown jewel.”
Nevada State Parks, like many state agencies and programs, has been hit hard by the recession, and cuts have been made throughout the system, including a reported 60 percent slash in staffing. But the agency is committed to no cuts at Tahoe, Howard said.
According to the state, Incline Village and East Shore pioneer George Whittell in 1958 reluctantly agreed to lease a portion of his lakeshore property at Sand Harbor to Nevada for public use.
While Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park was founded in 1963, it was judicial action a decade after Whittell leased Sand Harbor — which forced him to sell 5,000 acres throughout the East Shore — that became the foundation for the park as it’s known today; grand opening ceremonies were held in 1971.
Forty years later, with more than a million visitors enjoying Sand Harbor, and countless others hiking state-owned trails throughout the Spooner and Marlette-Hobart backcountry areas, launching out of the iconic Cave Rock boat launch and recreating at other areas such as Hidden Beach and Memorial Point, Howard said the park is ripe for an updated management plan.
The current plan on which parks staff operate is from 1990, he said.
A workshop was held March 21 in Carson City to gather valley residents’ ideas; a similar meeting will be planned later this year at Tahoe, Howard said, likely in Incline Village.
The goal after the Tahoe meeting, Howard said, is to develop a list of alternatives, as well as a preferred one, by the end of summer, and give the public a 30-day window to offer more feedback, before eventual final adoption by the end of 2012.
The updated plan would provide a long-range park management and development strategy, Howard said, based on current and projected visitation, needs, resource sensitivities and park conditions.
“We’re talking a very low level of development here. The park is largely built out over the past 40 years,” he said. “This is largely about improving operations, management and services.”
The challenge is how to keep things at the high level that visitors and locals expect, Howard said, considering current economic struggles.
When asked if the park can simply raise entry fees, Howard explained that it’s not that easy, considering park fees go to Nevada’s general fund, and the state then doles out a parks budget every year — thus, state parks has no control over its budget.
Furthermore, fee collection is not easy, Howard said.
“The park is very porous — we can’t collect fees everywhere, because people can access the trails from many places,” he said.
Ideas have been floated of a donations system, including one at Hidden Beach, where visitor dollars would help control trash issues at the popular beach. And the positive to donations, Howard said, is the money would stay with the parks, unlike state-controlled fees.
Other ideas out there include creating a staging area for boats launching at Sand Harbor to ease traffic congestion during busy summer months, improving parking at the Cave Rock launch and introducing more concession opportunities at various venues in order to make additional revenue.
While a date for the Tahoe public meeting this summer is to be determined, residents are encouraged to offer ideas and feedback to Howard. He can be reached at 775-831-0494, ext. 229.