INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; Toward the end of a meeting last week that highlighted progress toward a plan to upgrade Incline Village's trails, a bit of chaos broke out when a few residents began shouting and admonishing presenters for deliberately revealing, in their eyes, only one side of a controversial story.
Despite the drama, what eventually ensued was a civil opportunity for residents to offer feedback and#8212; much of which was skeptical of the work done so far.
About 100 residents and officials gathered at The Chateau on Wednesday, Aug. 1, to listen to a presentation from Incline resident Chuck Greene, who heads up the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Community Trail Committee, and former Tahoe Rim Trail Association Executive Director Mark Kimbrough, a paid consultant with the committee.
After the presentation, Kimbrough informed attendees they could learn more by visiting various workshop stations, filling out comment cards or joining him in a separate room, where he would listen to feedback and suggestions from residents.
This prompted resident Howard Reinhart to stand and loudly ask the room, and#8220;By a show of hands, who doesn't want this planand#8221; to move forward?
Roughly 50 or more residents enthusiastically raised their hands.
As Kimbrough tried to encourage residents to join him in the separate room for feedback, the crowd grew restless, with residents shouting statements like, and#8220;We want them now,and#8221; promoting a desire for comments critical of the plan to be heard.
At this point, Reinhart began speaking loudly and sharing his opinion, drowning out Kimbrough's pleas for civility.
and#8220;Whose lake is it? It's our lake. We paid for it with our assessments. They're our properties. We pay for them,and#8221; Reinhart shouted above the clamor. and#8220;Why is time and money being used for research on a plan we don't want? It's our money. These officials ... we can vote them in, and we can vote them out.and#8221;
Once Reinhart finished, he received applause from the 20 or so residents who surrounded him.
Prior to the outburst, Greene and Kimbrough shared a 90-minute presentation, revealing that the Incline Trails Committee formed in March 2011 and has since been gathering ideas for an eventual community-wide trails plan. The nearly all-volunteer committee (save for Kimbrough) also has tapped Incline Village General Improvement District staff, who've been authorized by General Manager Bill Horn to assist with research as part of their daily work responsibilities.
The ideas led to the creation of maps early this year of a 50-square-mile swath of land around Incline that indicate various existing trails on IVGID, Nevada and U.S. Forest Service lands, current and possible parking areas near trailheads and potential for connected and realigned trail options that would provide easier access to the area's steeper paths and#8212; even the option for an uninterrupted trail from Crystal Bay to the east end of Incline, all the way to Sand Harbor.
While no official plan has been approved by any public agency, nor has a plan yet been finalized, Greene admitted communication over the past year or so has not been ideal, and because of that, a lot of misinformation has bled into the community.
and#8220;I apologize for all the alarms and concerns and issues that have arisen. I certainly wasn't intending on getting everyone as upset as they are,and#8221; Greene said. and#8220;All concerns and feedback will be included into any final plan we may have.and#8221;
One of the main reasons the committee formed is because enthusiasm for hiking and biking has greatly increased the past two decades, and likely figures to grow in the next 20 years, especially at Lake Tahoe.
and#8220;Whether we like it or not, the basin is a major recreation destination for millions and millions of people every year,and#8221; Greene said.
Aside from tourism impacts, the plan is a good one to pursue, Greene said, because the U.S. Forest Service and Nevada State Parks are both in the process of updated regional plans. To be able to present a well-done and collaborative trails plan for Incline Village will help the process when the entities look to address issues here.
Furthermore, within the 50-square-mile area, roughly 200 miles (about 80 percent) of existing trails are deemed and#8220;unauthorized,and#8221; Green said and#8212; meaning they've been developed over the years but don't live up to various state and federal standards. Three of those unauthorized trails are the crude and steep paths with trailheads on IVGID land that lead up to the Tahoe Rim Trail.
All this creates a major environmental concern, Greene said, as sediment from the trails eventually filters into various creeks and streams that ultimately flow into Lake Tahoe, thus impacting its famed clarity.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was created to in the late 1960s to oversee development, but and#8220;it wasn't until the 1980s that TRPA got its act together and#8230; and put teeth into the regulations it wanted to (impose),and#8221; Greene said. Likewise, when the trails around the basin and Incline were constructed, they were built the same way, when many current regulations didn't exist.
and#8220;We have three huge scars on the side of the mountain from trails this community built ... that are major erosion issues into our alpine forests,and#8221; Greene said. and#8220;We're fixing the streams at the bottom while the trails at the top are pouring sediment back in.and#8221;
After his outburst, Reinhart, a 20-plus-year resident and homeowner whose residence is near a potential proposed trailhead, explained in a one-on-one interview that he and many residents have major issues because the maps show potential trails and trailheads that are accessible through many of the community's calm, upper-elevation neighborhoods, and that and#8220;homeowners weren't approached firstand#8221; before the committee began putting together ideas.
and#8220;They should ask the people if they want it, not come up and say and#8216;this is our plan.' Ask them first,and#8221; Reinhart said. and#8220;They're doing it backwards. These are paid people, officials of IVGID, doing all this research and#8212; if the majority says we don't want it, then we've just wasted a lot of time and money.and#8221;
Enhancing and promoting use of trails in Incline Village is a bad idea, he said, because it will attract tourists who don't have a stake in the community and cause havoc in peaceful neighborhoods if visitors were to shuttle bus loads of mountain bikers and hikers and#8212; many of whom won't spend money locally and#8212; to and from trailheads adjacent to quiet residential neighborhoods such as Upper Tyner and elsewhere.
and#8220;We pay extra money to have exclusivity here. We just want to battle to keep our community private,and#8221; Reinhart said. and#8220;If you open the door to allow public access to our trails, what's next, do you make the beaches public?and#8221;
For the most part, Reinhart's feelings were expressed by many residents during the feedback session with Kimbrough, with many saying that if the upper neighborhoods are simply taken out of the equation, the community would be more likely to support an enhanced trails plan.
and#8220;I'm not a fan of doing anything to bring additional people up here,and#8221; said Jim Nowlin. and#8220;This is not a resort destination and#8212; if you have (a trails plan) that attracts more tourists and more commercial interests, then you're gonna have a major war on your hands.and#8221;
Other residents, including Susan Dunshee and Mary Gilbert, who both live in Upper Tyner, agreed.
and#8220;There's a strong feeling here that you not go forward (with a plan) with proposed trails close to upper neighborhoods,and#8221; Dunshee said. and#8220;So as long as that is in there, people will not go with this.and#8221;
and#8220;I just don't understand the point of advancing the trails within our community,and#8221; Gilbert said. and#8220;There is so much to do around the area, I fail to understand why (people want to focus on trails) within the community.and#8221;
While residents were most concerned about what the plan might eventually be, others were skeptical of how it is being put together.
During Kimbrough's presentation, he often referred to a Power Point. One of its pages read that the IVGID board had unanimously voted in a resolution of support at its Feb. 8 meeting.
At that meeting, according to the minutes, the board listened to a presentation from Greene and Kimbrough and#8212; afterward, trustees voted to and#8220;conceptually approve the work of the ... committee in creating a Community Trail Plan at no cost to IVGID.and#8221;
Last Wednesday, Incline resident Leigh Hlavaty criticized Kimbrough and the committee for using IVGID's logo on previous publications of the plan because it misinforms people that the district has taken a stance on the trail plan itself, considering it's being presented as a and#8220;plan.and#8221;
and#8220;IVGID's logo makes it look like you have more support than there is,and#8221; Hlavaty said. and#8220;You talk as if there isn't a plan, but you publish it as a plan. If it's not a plan yet, then don't call it a plan.and#8221;
Some residents expressed frustration over the meeting's format, as they assumed it would allow for residents to express opinions in front of everyone.
Kimbrough apologized for the misunderstanding, and repeatedly told residents that all the feedback would be recorded and it would be used to craft the eventual draft plan.