TAHOE CITY, Calif. — An ice rink, lodging, helipad, additional parking and a community center are just some of the ideas being presented for the future of the Tahoe City Golf Course. Although more parking would be a great help, there’s just something about a parking lot that detracts from the overall beauty of our little paradise. So, in addition to those ideas, I would like to propose a close to the earth, back to nature, totally green idea — a community garden.
In Wisconsin, there is a Solar Cold Climate Greenhouse project (SCCG) that is highly successful, even in temperatures of minus 40 degrees. It was built at a cost of only $10 per square foot. One small greenhouse of 1,000 square feet would only cost $10,000. An ambitious undertaking of several large greenhouses equaling 10,000 square feet would only cost $100,000. Doubling, or even quadrupling the size would still be peanuts. Greenhouses are a bargain that would be hard to pass up even at 500,000 square feet.
The Wisconsin greenhouse project has a system that uses radiant heat from the sun reflecting off the snow, even at low angles in winter, requiring ridiculously low heating costs, and offers year around employment. It is so successful that it’s second phase is expected to increase market share dramatically over a larger region with an operating cost projected of only ten cents per square foot.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to double check all these building and operating cost numbers because they sound too good to be true. A little skepticism makes sense.
But at least we know that the technology exists for greenhouses that are not only feasible in the snow, but also very lucrative. Google solar cold climate greenhouse for even more impressive details. You will also see pictures of greenhouses in the snow.
Imagine greenhouses growing tomatoes, zucchini, onions, carrots, beans, strawberries, herbs and bushels of other blossoming staples all year around to help feed thousands.
A Tahoe City SCCG project might also include tree seedlings and flowers and become a major industry supplying the entire Tahoe Basin, and beyond, as it grows.
I am not a golfer, but I am a big fan of the sport. I would hate to see local golfers, many who I know personally, lose their conveniently located recreational treasure. But, the ideas being discussed, including greenhouses, could be implemented along with golf, in part.
The other ideas being discussed could result in a loss of fairways and greens, but not the community garden idea. It will result in more greens! Besides, you can’t eat golf balls.
But, seriously, a community garden, whatever it’s scale, would be a great way to make use of some of the land. It could even be used as part of a curriculum for agriculture, science and botany, nutrition, even business, giving students and teachers a real hands-on opportunity to develop practical skills that can benefit the entire community.
Besides golfers, a large scale community garden may not sit too well with local grocery stores. And, I haven’t confirmed this yet, but I don’t think the new technology for greenhouses involves glass, so badly hit golf balls wouldn’t be a problem
So there seems to be no real drawbacks to SCCG’s. A community garden would not only give us another place to gather and socialize and work together, it could make Tahoe City even more famous than it already is by giving us the added distinction of being a living example of an innovative, self-sufficient community that inspires other communities.
Global warming and long term weather forecasts warn of a much drier future, so a community garden would be a wise investment. Someday we might regret not doing it.
In the worst case weather scenario, whatever it may be, at least we’ll have some food.
Just one small greenhouse would be worth it — 200,000 sq. feet could grow an empire.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.