For Alison Brown, the highlight of a ceremonial opening of Lakeview Commons at El Dorado Beach Wednesday was the coconut lime lemonade.
The 15-year Lakeview Avenue resident enjoyed the drink and munched on a city-provided pulled pork and coleslaw lunch, and she mused about spending evenings sitting around the patio's fire pit. Brown's friend Phoenix Hunter looked forward to the next holiday.
"I park at the library and walk here on the Fourth of July," the 18-year South Lake Tahoe resident said. "It was just a bunch of rocks, now it's perfect. When the fireworks show was over, it was a stampede with all the kids coming back up the rocks."
Contributors from the numerous agencies involved in the more than $7 million project had Lake Tahoe as a backdrop as they spoke to people who sat on the rock terraces or at picnic tables on the patio. Others paddled in the water and played on the beach.
"The real tribute of this ceremony is that it is not disrupting the beach users; it is a multiuse project," California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said, touting the success of Proposition 84 passed in 2006. "Today is a day of incredible celebration and there are countless more projects across state. This one will last for generations to come."
South Lake Tahoe has been saddled for years with its "hole," the unfinished convention center project, an unsightly rebar-filled construction zone next to Stateline's high-rise casinos. Now, Tahoe's only incorporated city can take pride in a promenade area that bookends North Shore's Commons Beach and an entertainment venue to rival Incline Village's Sand Harbor.
Before the speeches had started, a visitor from Placerville watched the stage construction as a quintet of large birds swam in single file. He and about 20 friends annually stay in RVs across Lake Tahoe Boulevard in the city's campground, an area which would be part of Phase 2 of the project.
"We come as a gaggle, along with the geese," Bill Siemsen said. "They've done a real nice job. It's good use of taxpayer money. All the businesses will prosper, and with all the concrete and rock, it will live a lot longer than I will."
Lakeview Park began as an idea in 2004 by City Council members Kathy Lovell and Hal Cole, who were inspired by Tahoe City's Commons Beach.
"The vision became a dream and the dream became a reality for the community," Lovell, a former mayor, said as the sun shone on a cloudless Summer Solstice. "Take it in. Breathe. It's beautiful."
South Shore's representative on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors reminded the crowd the 56-acre site was donated by five pioneering families, including D.L. Bliss who made a fortune logging Tahoe but spent the last part of his life promoting and developing tourism.
"We have lakefront property," Norma Santiago exclaimed. "The county bought it for $7,500. This space, this place is incredibly special. Now we can look at fireworks without your butt hurting at the end of the day."
Mayor Claire Fortier was next at the dais.
"I have to thank my great good luck for following these formidable women who made this happen," said Fortier, who moved to Tahoe almost 20 years ago to become the editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. The biggest applause from her speech came when she congratulated project manager Jim Marino, who "had to deal with two contentious city councils."
Manuela Anne King, the project's design chief with Royston, Hanamoto, Alley & Abey, was praised by many of the speakers.
King and fellow planner Jordan Zlotoff landed the job after a 2008 three-day design competition.
"My biggest challenge was to bring everybody together to understand what we wanted to do," she said.
Zlotoff added, "It was an environmental wreck with a lot of erosion. Now it's completely environmentally sustainable and correct."
If Phase 2 is approved, the park will continue east all the way to Rufus Allen Boulevard and across the highway to include the campground.
Lovell concluded her speech with a special reminder to Laird and wink to King.
"Secretary, there is a Phase 2, huh, Manuela," the former mayor said.