INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Visitors hoping to gain entry to Sand Harbor State Park this summer will need a set of wheels to do so. Last week, park managers announced that, starting June 16, walk-in visitors will no longer be permitted entry into the popular park.The decision, which came in tandem with the unveiling of final details of the East Shore Express — a shuttle service between Incline Village and the park — was just one part of a large undertaking to address traffic congestion and public safety concerns on the East Shore along Highway 28.“The decision goes counter to the basic mission of state parks to provide access. It goes against our make-up, but because we have such a significant issue on the highway with public safety, we felt like we should go ahead,” said Sand Harbor State Park Supervisor Jay Howard. “I’ve seen people pushing strollers and barbecue grills down the highway.”Every year, an average of 800,000 people visit Sand Harbor, with 10,000 of those visitors walking into the park. Howard estimates that 70 to 80 percent of walk-in visitors are coming from illegally parked vehicles in the 1.5-mile no-parking zone along Highway 28. The remaining 20 to 30 percent are walking on the road from outside the no parking zone.“Anybody who is out there walking on the highway is really risking their life to get to this park,” Howard said. “There are no paths, no sidewalks, and people are forced to walk on the pavement itself. Even if they are beyond the fog line (the white line), space is very narrow.” The East Shore Express, Howard said, will give visitors an alternative means of getting into the park. The transit system will run June 15 through Labor Day weekend this summer. Shuttle riders will be guaranteed access to the park through a private entrance regardless of how busy the park is, Howard said, and the bus will have room for summer beach gear, including coolers.Howard said the ban on walk-in traffic has been discussed for the past 10 years, but was deemed feasible only after the creation of the East Shore Express.In making the decision, Howard said he looked at how other parks handle access limitations — specifically Devils Post Pile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and Zion Canyon in Zion National Park in Utah. Both parks limit a majority of vehicular traffic for at least portion of the year; Howard said an all-and-out ban on cars was not the right choice for Sand Harbor.“We have limited parking spaces, but beyond that we did not want to limit access,” he said. “We just wanted to guide people into a safer way of getting here.”Howard said the park will continue to evaluate the impacts of this policy on the public.“If we get feedback, if we see things that need to be changed, we will always be responsive,” he said.
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