Lake Tahoe stewardship plan introduced to address tourism, recreation challenges
ROUND HILL, Nev. — An unprecedented group of Lake Tahoe destination management, land management, and nonprofits on Tuesday launched the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan with the signing of an agreement to create the first stewardship council for the region.
The plan outlines a comprehensive framework and sets in motion action priorities to better manage outdoor recreation and tourism and ensure the sustainability and preservation of an iconic natural treasure and its local community.
Tuesday’s event capped an extensive stakeholder engagement and community visioning process that began in 2022 after the community felt immense challenges initially brought on by COVID. The plan’s vision and actions were developed in collaboration with 17 regional organizations and participation of over 3,000 residents, visitors, and businesses through surveys, interviews, and workshops.
Speakers at the event included Julie Regan, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency executive director, Erick Walker, forest service supervisor for Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Tony Karwowski, president and CEO, North Tahoe Community Alliance, Carol Chaplin, president and CEO, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Amy Berry, CEO of the Tahoe Fund.
“This plan responds to the need to balance a robust tourism economy, a fragile environment and thriving local communities,” Chaplin said. “And the collaboration and commitment by our lakewide partners to achieve that balance is extraordinary and powerful towards achieving our shared vision.”
The Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan establishes a shared vision for the region’s recreation and tourism system: A cherished place, welcoming to all, where people, communities, and nature benefit from a thriving tourism and outdoor recreation economy. The plan identifies 32 actions across four strategic pillars:
- Foster a tourism economy that gives back
- Turn a shared vision into shared action
- Advance a culture of caring for the greater Lake Tahoe region
- Improve the Tahoe experience for all
By implementing this plan, member organizations, and Lake Tahoe communities will reinforce their commitment to responsible recreation and tourism practices, ensuring the continued enjoyment of this national treasure for generations to come.
“At its heart, this plan is about taking care of Tahoe for generations to come,” said Berry. “With the entire region putting this strategy into action, we will be able to build a sustainable future for the Lake Tahoe environment that everyone can enjoy.”
The Destination Steward Plan working group was formed about two years ago, just shortly before Karwowski joined NTCA. Since stepping into his role, he’s been working to shift the focus of NTCA to a destination stewardship focused organization.
“The priorities [of the plan] line up with our priorities. The three key priorities of the North Tahoe Community Alliance are economic health, community vitality and environmental stewardship, which all three line up with everything you heard from every speaker today,” Karwowski said.
The partnership brings together organizations from all around the Lake so one thing Karwowski is excited for is the shared messaging and communication throughout the Basin.
“When a visitor comes to North Lake Tahoe, they don’t see a jurisdictional change, the experience for them is the same and they can expect to hear the same messaging about how they behave when they come here. Residents can also expect to hear the same themes as to how they can contribute to making North Lake Tahoe the greatest place to visit and live,” Karwowski said.
Along with Karwowski, Regan and Walker are both fairly new to their roles. Regan said having new faces working along long-time community leaders helped push this initiative forward.
“This is work we’ve all been doing for years, but what’s different is, the table is bigger and its the right people at the table,” Regan said.
Regan hopes this plan will allow Lake Tahoe to look around the world for ideas on how to make tourism in the Basin more sustainable and equitable but also hopes this plan can be a touchstone for people elsewhere in the world to look to.
“The beauty of Tahoe is that it’s always been a shared resource and sharing is hard … it’s never been easy and I think the challenge has just evolved but the basic principles of sharing this place are something we hold fast to,” Regan said.
“As the Tahoe region’s primary economic engine, tourism must be nurtured and shaped to support the wellbeing of its communities, visitors, businesses, natural environment, and cultures,” said Walker. “It is everyone’s responsibility to safeguard and improve Lake Tahoe and its surrounding lands, tributaries and forests. To protect the quality of the Tahoe experience, it is vital to manage use while providing opportunities for all to enjoy it.”
To implement the plan, partners agreed to establish a Lake Tahoe Stewardship Council that will actively engage with stakeholders, residents, and visitors to foster a collective sense of responsibility towards the destination’s sustainability. The plan will be continuously reviewed, updated, and adapted to address emerging challenges and opportunities.
“I think this plan is going to impact us in the most positive way, one – the fact that everybody who has a stake in the game is represented in this place and through the extensive public outreach,” said Walker.
When asked what he’s most excited about in the plan, Walker said, “the things that are going to help educate and inform our visitors to become the visitor we want.”
With those pieces, he hopes they won’t have to rely on volunteers so much when it comes to trash and litter and he also hopes it will help with fire safety in the region.
“That education element, helping folks understand because we know that most of our wildfires are generally human-caused,” said Walker. “We’re doing all the work we can to make this fire dependent ecosystem that we call the Lake Tahoe Basin more resilient when fire comes and set the stage to where fire can maybe function similarly as it did when the Washoe were here.”
This summer, visitors and residents at Tahoe will see destination stewardship programs already working. Key programs include Take Care Ambassadors at recreation sites and trailheads, expanded litter clean ups, solar compacting trash cans, and coordinated stewardship education campaigns focused on visitors and outdoor recreation users.
For more information about the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan and to access the full plan document, visit http://www.stewardshiptahoe.org.
The public can learn more about the plan at an upcoming online webinar from 5-7 p.m. July 10 or by signing up for the eNews at http://www.stewardshiptahoe.org.
The plan was developed in collaboration with 17 regional organizations including the California Tahoe Conservancy, city of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation, North Tahoe Community Alliance, Placer County, Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Prosperity Center, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Travel North Tahoe Nevada, USDA Forest Service – Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Visit Truckee-Tahoe, Washoe County, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
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