Dylan Silver
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May 10, 2012
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Construction to close Pope-Baldwin Bike Path for up to a month

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the estimated cost of the project.

It's not just road construction that will be hitting the pavement around South Lake Tahoe this summer. Lake Tahoe's Pope-Baldwin Bike Path also has it coming.

The U.S. Forest Service will close portions of the path on Monday or Tuesday to begin the project. As the 3.2-mile path is one of the most popular cycling routes in Lake Tahoe, the closure has drawn a mixed reaction from users and businesses.

"I'm not sure it needs improvement," said Sally Thiele, who often walks along Pope-Baldwin. "We could probably spend our money somewhere else."

Crews will repair the cracks, holes and bumps in the paved surface. The project is expected to improve safety and accessibility, and improve the trail's lifespan, according to a statement released by the Forest Service. The cost of the project is estimated to be around $100,000, said Cheva Heck, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service.

The agency decided to do the work now because many of the path's imperfections are past the thresholds which indicate a need for repair, said roads manager Paul Potts.

"A lot of the criteria is based on the width of the cracks and the height of the bumps," Potts said.

The Forest Service threshold for bumps that need to be repaired is 3/8-inch high and the threshold for cracks that need to be repaired is 1 inch wide, Potts said. Some bumps on the trail rise to several inches from the smooth surface and some cracks are more than 3 inches wide.

South Shore Bikes owner Hec Hernandez believes closing the trail when so many people want to get out and ride isn't such a good idea, he said.

"It's going to impact all of us horribly," Hernandez said. "They're shutting it down right at the start of summer."

Anderson's Bicycle Rental owner Doug Anderson, who clears the snow and sweeps debris from Pope-Baldwin each spring, said that though the closure may impact his business, he's happy to see work on the trail.

"I'm pleased they're going to do maintenance and repair," he said. "There are areas that could benefit from it."

Though he rides a mountain bike, cyclist Tom Schafer, who occasionally rides the path on his lunch break, agreed that the trail could use some work.

"If you don't work on it from time to time, it'll fall apart," he said.

Though it's not exactly clear how the contractor will go about the work, it's likely they'll do a rolling closure as they work on each section rather than close miles of the trail, Potts said. Some sections of the trail will be detoured onto the dirt, according to the Forest Service press release.

One of Hernandez's concerns is that bike path users may end up riding on Highway 89, which runs parallel to the path.

"We get parents with their kids and their trailers. The bike path is packed and (this is) going to put those people on the street," he said.

He's also worried about access to the popular spots off Highway 89. According to Forest Service documents, the Pope-Baldwin Bike Path averages around 1,600 users per day, many of whom come and go from the beaches and trails in the area.

"What makes it so bad is that traffic just stops," Hernandez said. "The only way to get up there is by bike."

As part of the Fallen Leaf Lake Trail Access and Travel Management plan, the Pope-Baldwin path is supposed to be reconstructed in coming years, the Forest Service announced last year. It's unclear how this year's maintenance and repairs will impact that plan, Herron said.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 14, 2012 12:50PM Published May 10, 2012 08:37PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.