Cars lined the Highway 89 corridor by the Camp Richardson Resort as beachgoers made their way to the shore on Tuesday. The area is home to some of the Lake Tahoe Basin's most popular beaches, making summer parking, especially on weekends and holidays, a downright battle.
"After the Fourth, the whole highway was lined with cars," said Chris Smart, an employee at the area's information center.
According to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck, the roadside parking can be both dangerous and damaging. That's why three of the four alternatives in the USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit's Forest Plan update involve looking at better parking management in high-use areas like Camp Richardson and Highway 28 by Sand Harbor.
That management includes building more lots and potentially imposing fees to keep people off the busy roads and curbside areas.
"There are issues with public safety involved. And the other big issue is resource damage. Obviously developed parking costs money to build and maintain. There's definitely a possibility there will be fees for parking," she said.
South Shore Snow bike mechanic Mark Coverdale said he already saw an accident on the East Shore by Sand Harbor in July that he describes as parking-related.
"There was carnage, a tow-truck, and a 25-minute wait. It was an obvious example of a parking-problem area. There's access to lots but they're always full. The whole East Shore corridor is where they should build the lots," Coverdale said.
And though Coverdale - an avid mountain biker and skier - would rather not pay for parking to access the backcounty, it's better than no parking at all, he said.
The Forest Service's preferred option, Alternative B, would attempt to substitute roadside parking for managed parking, such as lots. Parking capacity would remain the same. Alternative C would increase parking capacity, while Alternative D would decrease it, placing more emphasis on other forms of transit. Under Alternative A, no changes would take place.
As far as Caltrans' role in the plans, spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins said the department, which manages more than 50,000 miles of highways and freeways in the state, will most likely accede to the Forest Service and the community regarding the limits on roadside parking in the basin.
All public comments regarding the proposed Forest Plan are due by Aug. 30. The final environmental document should be released by late 2012, with a decision by the Forest Service's regional office scheduled for the middle of 2013. It will mark the end of an almost 10-year process to revise the plan, Heck said.
"We've put a lot of work into it and we're happy to be close to the finish line," she said.