City, county squabble over recreation area
A squabble over a popular recreation area in Tahoe that has lasted decades has resurfaced.
The South Lake Tahoe Recreation Area, a 56-acre parcel that hugs Highway 50, has been the center of an intense struggle between El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe. The city is trying to wrangle loose the property deed from the county to implement a master plan. The county has backed off such a transaction in the past because of concerns regarding the library branch off of Rufus Allen Drive.
The county owns most of the property but it is maintained by the city. Although the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency considers the land as one entity, it actually is divided into four parcels. The property encompasses the El Dorado campground and jumps over the highway to the beach with the same name. Also included are the library, ice rink and historical buildings on Highway 50.
The major and recurring hurdle has been the library, whose representatives have persuaded the Board of Supervisors not to transfer the land. Branch officials don’t want the city as a landlord for the fear of one day being relocated or evicted for a more profitable, commercial use.
“Down the line, different people can make changes,” said library commissioner Pat Amundson. “They can do anything they want and we want to maintain the library as a county-owned property.”
Don Radford, the city’s parks and recreation director, suggested Wednesday the library be kept under county domain while the rest of the land be handed to the city.
“I feel it’s only safe that we have a library parcel,” Radford said. “We can never convince them we don’t want a hotel there.”
Since the transfer has never been approved, the city is held captive funding the master plan. The $3 million plan designates space for an indoor skating rink, a special events area for artisans and the performing arts and an exit corridor from parking lots to Highway 50. The document, which was approved in 1978, had conceptualized county buildings in different locations from where they are today. The county Park and Recreation Commission approved changes to the plan on Wednesday, which essentially keeps those buildings intact.
Without the deed, the city can’t apply for state grants. Radford estimates $600,000 can be obtained from the state if the city was the lead agency.
“There are many master plans that are competing for state funding,” he said. “We know the money is sitting there but we can’t apply for it. Our department sees this plan as a focus and priority of maintaining the level of recreation here.”
The tennis match over the master plan dates back to the 1960s. In 1993, the city was going to swap the campground for the government center but the deal fell through. As recent as last June, the Board of Supervisors visited the issue but no action was taken.
Even if the county grants the transfer, securing funds for the ice rink and the master plan remains a question. John Wareham, president of South Tahoe Ice Inc., said investors have made a commitment but the entire $1.6 million expansion project still isn’t completely funded.
A lack of funds has prevented Wareham from building a roof over the ice rink for year round use. The STIC president still has his sights set on opening for fall and winter use.
Radford added that he intends to meet with the library commission soon and then make another request of the Board of Supervisors.
“I can’t put a date on when this plan will be a reality,” he said. “There have obviously been some delays but the the city needs to be the lead agency for this to work.”
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