South Shore residents and visitors could have more organized sports and recreation opportunities starting as early as 2014, at least if all goes according to plan. The plan — devised jointly by El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe and dubbed the Parks, Trails, and Recreation Master Plan — will provide a blueprint for South Lake Tahoe for the next 10 years, City Councilmember Angela Swanson said. The county is soliciting proposals from consultants to prepare the master plan that will outline and asses the recreation opportunities available on the South Shore. “It's really taking a look at return on investment and letting the government stabilize and draw in more organized recreation,” Swanson said. While the plan hasn't been drawn up yet, Swanson said early ideas revolve around bringing more organized sports like softball and soccer tournaments to the South Shore, expanding bike trails and increasing water sports opportunities. That means updating existing fields and resources as well as possibly building new ones. One of the ideas on the table is a sports complex that would allow teams to play during the winter, offer other activities like indoor rock climbing and bring a high-altitude training facility to South Lake Tahoe. Nicknamed the “Bear Box,” the indoor field house would be built on or near the site of the existing ice arena and recreation center located at 1180 Rufus Allen Blvd., according to Swanson. At this stage the proposed Bear Box has neither a price tag nor a size estimate, but Swanson compared the complex to the $18 million field house in Lindsay, Calif. The Lindsay City Council approved the project, completed in 2009, to restore an old packing house. The 172,000-square-foot McDermont Field House, which includes a skate park, arcade, laser tag, aquatic center and indoor fields, revitalized the Lindsay downtown and is now financially self-sufficient, field house director Clint Ashcraft said.The first step outlined by the Parks, Trails, and Recreation Master Plan is compiling an inventory of the current recreation opportunities in the South Shore that could be finished by mid-December, El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago said. Santiago said she expects that the consultant contract will be awarded by the first quarter of 2013. After that the county and the city will appoint members from both the private and public sector to serve on a Master Plan Advisory Committee to develop and expand details of the work. Funding and implementation could start by 2014, Swanson said. “Recreation is a major component for re-stimulation of the economy for the area. We are very good at planning, but what do we do with that plan to make sure it gets implemented?” Santiago said. According to Santiago, making sure the master plan — what she calls the “backbone” for further development — gets implemented will entail comprehensive fundraising and smart investments that offer high returns. Swanson said the money will probably come from a mix of both private and public organizations, while federal grants and citizen bonds are also a possibility. The recreation master plan fits into the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan that outlines recreation, health and wellness, and environmental sciences as three key areas to expand the economy, Santiago said. “We're seeing a merger with all these plans coming together. I'm very committed to these plans so they're not just plans that sit on shelves. We all understand the need to change the economic focus in order to revitalize our community,” Santiago said.
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