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Bijou Park receives facelift

Michael Schneider

The wife of a former South Lake Tahoe founder is planting the seeds the city’s Parks and Recreation Department hopes will finish Bijou Community Park.

Tahoe Valley Campground owner Thelma Martin, whose husband, Gerald, sat on the first city council in the late 1960s, has donated foliage and rocks to the park’s center parking lot island.

An assortment of trees, rocks and grass, including a stone bench and patio, now adorns the front of the parking lot’s center island.

Martin said that when Gerald died three summers ago, she was given two trees as a gift. She said she felt one should be planted in the city he helped found. “That’s how the landscaped island started,” Martin said.

The landscaping includes green spruces, quaking aspens, red-tipped dogwoods, maples and rhododendrons, among other shrubbery. Martin said the trees and bushes are arranged in a pattern so the colors of yellow, white and red are layered into the landscaping.

The island also includes a stone walkway and bench. Martin said the stones had to be imported from India.

The South Tahoe Public Utility District donated several boulders which adorn the island and Martin said community leader Bill Ledbetter has helped coordinate the effort.

Next spring, a ceremony will be held to dedicate the landscaping to the first city council. Three flags, a California State flag, an American flag and a city of South Lake Tahoe flag, will sit in the island. A plaque commemorating the city’s founding fathers, and those who helped with the exhibit, will adorn the site.

When complete, the landscaping will reach the parking lot’s center island and will include a pathway, according to Steve Weiss, parks superintendent, who said the Parks and Recreation Commission recently approved this action.

Weiss said he hopes Martin’s effort will inspire other community members and service groups to help the city finish the park.

Bijou Park, acquired by the city in 1982, has never been sodded.

Weiss said many of the city’s service clubs built the park’s basketball courts, picnic areas and skateboard park, but abandoned ship before grass and an irrigation system could be established.

He said he hopes the grass put in by Martin, and the irrigation system to water it, will call others to action to donate more grass.

Service groups also have donated baskets for the 27-basket disc golf course, maintained by a volunteer group, the Tahoe Disc Golf Association.

At recent city budget hearings, Weiss and Recreation Superintendent Judy Crawford, told the city council, due to city budget cuts that most drastically affected their department, they’ve been unable to put grass on the park’s floor.

They pointed to Kahle Community Park, a park in Douglas County that has been completed and holds concerts and other events, and said South Lake Tahoe is missing out on various activities.

Weiss said he didn’t think a finished Bijou Park would accommodate such events as Starship and Fabulous Thunderbird concerts, but did say he envisioned weekend afternoon events in a finished park.

Parks and Recreation plans to install irrigating wells throughout the park which would support grass over the parks now-dusty terrain. He said he hopes others in the community will see what Thelma Martin has done and follow suit to complete the park.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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