Agencies talk stewardship at Stateline conference, announce North Tahoe Community Alliance

Operation Sierra Storm brought together local agencies to talk about stewardship and sustainability in Lake Tahoe.
Miranda Jacobson

STATELINE, Nev. — Many agencies came together on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Stateline to discuss Lake Tahoe-wide sustainability plans post pandemic as a part of the Operation Sierra Storm Meteorological Conference, where stewardship was a major theme for solutions moving forward. 

The panel discussion recapped the work being done by agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Tahoe Fund, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association almost three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Initiatives currently happening in communities include “Take Care, Tahoe,” that sees fun images and taglines encourage sustainable recreation in the basin. 

Following the start of the pandemic, visitor agencies and the basin in general were overwhelmed with visitors, and much of the discussion revolved around work that has been done for local communities and tourism since. 

North Lake Tahoe Resort Association Marketing Director Kirstin Guinn announced during the discussion that the association would be transitioning to the North Tahoe Community Alliance in order to serve communities and promote stewardship. 

“We are evolving from an organization that has been charged with maintaining a tourism based economy for the last 65 years, and we’re still doing that for sure,” said Guinn. “Economic health is still a huge part of what we’re doing, but we’re adding some other things in now … Community vitality and environmental sustainability, environmental stewardship, so continuing the stewardship theme.” 

One of the biggest changes that the organization is going to be making is talking with residents, which is a huge transition from a destination marketing organization. In addition, there will be a change from working with businesses to drive visitors through their doors to helping support businesses thrive in throughout the entire year. 

“We’re changing from being a destination marketing organization to a destination management organization,” said Guinn. 

The change is being made possible through the transition of funding for the organization. Previously, the NLTRA was funded by the transient occupancy tax, which was an extra tax for lodging that visitors pay when staying in the area. But when COVID began impacting businesses, it became clear that the residents needed to be involved as well. 

This need led to the creation of the Tahoe Business Improvement District, and the TBID tax. 

“So we’re not just collecting TOT from overnight visitors,” said Guinn. “We’re collecting TBID money from anyone who uses any service … So this new funding source means we have new stakeholders. So now, every business in town is paying the TBID assessment as opposed to just the lodging properties that pay the TOT.” 

The funds from the TBID fund will go to improving the communities in the basin as a whole. 

“We are now all about stewardship education. We promote responsible travel, off-peak season travel,” said Guinn. “We’re looking for people to come up midweek. We’re looking for them to come in the spring and the fall to help support our economy during the slower times. We’re looking to bolster a sustainable year-round economy and we’re advocating for for visitors services for transportation, which is a huge issues around the lake.” 

Workforce housing will be another new purview of the organization, something they hadn’t been a part of before. 

“We were never worried about workforce housing before,” said Guinn. “It was just like, ‘Hey, we went 10,000 people through your door to spend money. You’re welcome.’ And now, they have to close every Tuesday because they don’t have enough staff. So how do we solve that problem instead of sending people through the door?” 

All organizations present agreed that there is a new kind of visitor coming to Lake Tahoe, and it’s the responsibly of local agencies to teach them how to recreate responsibly, while also meeting the needs of local residents and the environment. 

“These are not the traditional Tahoe guests,” said Guinn. “They’re not traditional skiers, they’re not traditional backpackers. They’ve never heard the term leave no trace… So we’re trying to create new behaviors and new awareness and educate people.” 

The NLTRA will officially transition to the North Tahoe Community Alliance on Wednesday, Feb. 1. 

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