Bi-state park near Heavenly gondola gains key approval |

Bi-state park near Heavenly gondola gains key approval

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Despite a call for additional environmental review, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approved the first phase of a nearly 400-acre bi-state park behind the casino corridor on Wednesday.

The initial phase of Van Sickle Bi-State Park master plan will go to the California Tahoe Conservancy’s Board for approval next month, but gaining TRPA approval was a significant step toward making the park a reality, said Dave Morrow, administrator of the Nevada Division of State Parks.

The park’s $3 million first phase includes construction of an interim 14- space day parking lot, as well as the placement of a restroom and six picnic tables near the property’s historic barn, beneath the Heavenly Mountain Resort gondola.

The phase also includes a 32-space parking lot, picnic tables and a restroom on the Nevada side of the park. Six of the parking spots would be large enough for horse trailers, according to a TRPA staff report.

Both lots would be accessed through a paved road to be built from the park entrance at the corner of Montreal Road and Heavenly Village Way.

Although the land is already open to the public, construction on the first phase could be completed as soon as summer 2010, said Peter Maholland, a conservation staff specialist with Nevada State Parks.

Flavia Sordelet, a representative from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, told the Governing Board Wednesday that the project’s more than three acres of new land coverage could significantly harm area streams.

The potential for this degradation justifies additional review of the project by the agency’s Advisory Planning Commission, Sordelet contended.

The Governing Board disagreed, but Jennifer Montgomery ” Placer County’s representative on the board ” said she is concerned about environmental impacts from subsequent components of the park.

Later phases of the park’s master plan include camping facilities and the possible development of recreational vehicle sites.

Although the phases require additional TRPA approval, the Governing Board added a stipulation to Wednesday’s decision indicating the board may seek a cumulative environmental review of the project when they are asked to approve future phases of the project.

But the likelihood of those phases is in doubt.

The first phase of the project is “stand alone,” and it is improbable the park will ever reach the extent detailed in the master plan, Morrow said.

“It is highly unlikely some of the elements in the master plan will see the light of day,” Morrow said.

One feature of the park that is likely to come to fruition is a trail near the park’s Nevada parking lot that connects to the Tahoe Rim Trail, Maholland said.

The connector trail has received approval from the U.S. Forest Service and is under review by the TRPA, Maholland said.

Consolidating the area’s numerous informal trails into an official network is another master-plan element that will likely be implemented, Maholland said.

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