Access Tahoe aims to make Lake Tahoe enjoyable for all
When someone mentions Lake Tahoe, people often think of blue skies, snow mountains, and beaches with a stunning view of the most beautiful lake in the world. Every year, around fifteen million people visit the lake to enjoy its trails, boating in its waters, and skiing its magnificent mountains. Unfortunately, not all of Lake Tahoe is accessible to those who are mentally and physically disabled.
Access Tahoe Founder and physical therapist, Angie Reagan and with the help of Stacy Ballard, who is on the South Lake Tahoe Arts, Culture and Tourism Commission, decided to step in and do something to help make Tahoe more accessible. On January 31, 2023, they had a strategic planning meeting for the City Council, during which both talked about accessibility. The two women have been talking ever since then.
Reagan received a text from a friend, who passed away earlier this year, telling her that he wanted her to meet his friend, Victor Pineda of the Victor Pineda Foundation/World Enabled, a global non-profit that promotes the rights of people with disabilities. Attending one his classes at UC Berkeley, where he talked about making cities accessible and inclusive, set Reagan down her path.
The organization is in their early stages, having just started four months ago. While they’re not a formal entity, they have a presence, thanks to a group of people that are getting together to try to make change happen.
“For people with disabilities, and then just a lot of people that just want to try and learn more, have more awareness, more education, and figure out how they can help. We’ve really just had two big meetings in July and August, and then we had a Zoom call in August as well. But I’ve been kind of working on this throughout the year in different ways. And then, I’m trying to start a business called Peace Love Tahoe, and this just sort of stemmed off as kind of a target area that needs more attention. We’ve had city council members come and realtors, occupational therapists and the Planning Commission, Act Commission, Parks, and Recreation, and then a lot of different nonprofits, explains Angie when asked how Access Tahoe came to be,” Reagan said.
She added, “I’ve kind of started this and just been trying to coordinate it. And, it’s growing, so I am working on structuring it and trying to maybe gain nonprofit status, because there’s really nothing like this at the lake. South Lake Tahoe has less services and less nonprofits in this area. North Lake Tahoe is covered by Achieve Tahoe, High-fives, and Tahoe Ability Program that have different nonprofits for adaptive recreation and activities, that we don’t have down here.”
Jennifer Drennan, a Registered Nurse, and mother of a disabled daughter named Caitlyn, happened upon Reagan’s Instagram and the mention of a meeting called Access Roundtable, so she decided to attend her first meeting in June of this year.
“I think what they’re trying to do is just make businesses, beaches, parks, recreation, things like that, more physically adaptive for physically disabled folks like my daughter. But they also have a larger picture of other disabilities, such as chronic diseases, and things like that, like Accessible Yoga. Their whole foundation is yoga for all people, all bodies, whether overweight, whether gay, lesbian, whatever it is,” said Drennan.
When asked if her daughter, Caitlyn, 13 would be a part of the program, Drennan said, “I will probably take her to a class and see what she thinks. My daughter is autistic and globally developmentally delayed. Meaning she doesn’t necessarily interact with people the way that normal kids would.”
The Access Roundtables have taken off, bringing awareness to the organization, so Reagan says during the next meeting (September 18), they will break people into different groups. There’s a lot of people, and there’s a lot of different needs, and everyone is there for different reasons. So, they want to ensure everyone’s needs and interests are being met, whether it’s seniors, education, development, or adults with developmental disabilities or transportation, recreation, or adaptive sports.
“I go to City Council meetings and all the Commission meetings pretty regularly, and people there are talking about this that I’ve never met, so the buzz is kind of getting out that there is a need and there is a deficit,” said Reagan.
John Starks, who is the new Parks and Recreation Director, has been involved all along, trying to get the Parks and Rec Center built to provide for the community and for all people. South Lake Tahoe Public Works Director, Anush Nejad, is trying to get streets and sidewalks and transportation, and the signals of the lights up to date as well.
Reagan said that she feels overwhelmed with gratitude, for the people that are showing up and caring and contributing, and just wanting to make a difference.
“The very next week after that first roundtable, Angie reached out to John Stark, and he then met us down at Reagan, or El Dorado Beach, one of the two, to talk about the fact that there’s no beach access for kids in wheelchairs. How do I get my kid to the beach? And so, we were talking about mobility mats and just more access to beaches, sid Drennan.”
“We’re literally watering the seeds to get these things to sprout, but we’re pretty new in this process of really having a voice locally to say, ‘Hey, we need Mobi-Mats at the beaches so our children or adults, tourists with disabled families can enjoy the water.’ We want Tahoe to be a hub for people with disabled family members to be able to come here and know that they can go skiing at Heavenly, because Heavenly has adaptive ski equipment, “adds Drennan.
When asked what the dream was in the future for Access Tahoe, Reagan said it’s to have a resource website someday where families can go to plan their vacation easier, and you would know exactly what to expect as far as accessibility, so you’re not trying to figure it out once you get here.
She added, “Right now, it’s just starting as a group of volunteers that are just grassroots kind of community built. I say built by the community for the community. And, if we can nonprofit status and staff and some funding to make some of these things happen, that would be wonderful.”
For more information about Reagan and Access Tahoe, go to their respective Instagram pages @angiereagan and @accesstahoe. To be added to their email list go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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