Basin agencies improve access and recreation |

Basin agencies improve access and recreation

Patrick McCartney

Blessed by an abundance of recreational attractions, the Tahoe Basin offers most visitors and residents the type of recreational activities they are seeking.

And over the last five years, agencies and jurisdictions within the basin have expanded public access to Lake Tahoe and constructed a number of new recreational facilities.

And recreation providers are planning additional improvements, including the completion of a bicycle trail around Lake Tahoe by the year 2000 and the adoption of uniform informational signs.

Those are several of the principal conclusions in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s review of recreation standards, or thresholds, in its five-year evaluation of the basin’s environment, said Andrew Strain, a senior TRPA planner.

“For the most part, the recreational expectations of the public are being met,” Strain said in summarizing the findings of the 1996 evaluation. “While recreation trends come and go, basin recreation providers have done a pretty good job at satisfying the public’s expectations.”

The trend of the moment, Strain added, is individual sports, and at Lake Tahoe that translates to such pursuits as rock climbing, golf, snowboarding and mountain biking.

Since the agency’s last evaluation in 1991, local jurisdictions have completed several new facilities, including Douglas County’s Kahle Community Park, South Lake Tahoe’s Bijou Community Park, the Incline Village Recreation Center, the Pat Lowe Memorial Bikeway and Lake Tahoe Interagency Visitors Center in Meyers.

Other private and public projects are completed or on the drawing board, including a skateboard park and ice skating rink in South Lake Tahoe and the expansion of Heavenly Ski Resort.

Fulfilling another goal identified in TRPA’s environmental thresholds, the California Tahoe Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service have continued to purchase properties from private landowners to provide new access to Lake Tahoe. Since 1991, the Conservancy has acquired 560 parcels with a combined area of 560 acres, and the Forest Service has added significant holdings in the Zephyr Cove area and Baldwin Beach.

“We as a community have done a good job at acquiring more public access,” Strain said. “Additional public land on the shore is becoming more and more valuable. It’s a scarce resource and a finite commodity.”

The opportunity for hiking has improved since 1991 as well, with the creation of 18 more miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail. The new segments have increased the completed trail to 128 miles of the 150 miles needed to completely encircle the basin.

Another outcome of the 1991 evaluation was the creation of the Tahoe Coalition of Recreation Providers, a network of public and private recreation professionals. In addition to proposing a uniform signage program, the coalition completed an inventory of all basin recreation facilities in 1995.

Despite the progress toward providing the public with recreational opportunities, a goal which is closely identified with the basin’s economy, the TRPA identified several activities the public has said it wants to see at Lake Tahoe.

The most frequently cited facilities that are not yet available are a mountain bike park, an indoor ice skating rinks and a hot springs spa.

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