Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care breaks ground on new facility |

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care breaks ground on new facility

Isaac Brambila
Members and supporters of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care break ground on a new site Thursday at 1551 Al Tahoe Blvd.
Isaac Brambila | Tahoe Daily Tribune

For more than a decade, a golden shovel waited for its time to shine. Over the years its intended use shifted. The sparkle from the original tool faded. On Thursday, some 37 years after Cheryl and Tom Millham began efforts to preserve wildlife at Lake Tahoe, the reconditioned shovel rested next to six platinum shovels at what will be the new location of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

Tom Millham, secretary and treasurer of LTWC, told the story of the shovel to dozens of supporters who gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony. About 20 years ago the center received a donation. The return address, in Oxnard, Calif., included the name Thomas Millham. It was a name that caught Tom Millham’s attention, but as he eventually found, he had no relation to the man. Thomas Millham was simply another supporter. Tom Millham eventually reached out to the Oxnard Millham, who invited Tom Millham to visit if he was ever in the area. About 12 years ago Tom and Cheryl Millham called and arranged a visit. At the time, Thomas Millham and his family were clearing out some of their home in preparation for a move to Kansas. Thomas Millham gave the Millhams several things, including the golden shovel.

“He said, ‘I want you to use this when you break ground on your new property,’” Tom Millham told supporters during an emotional speech.

“Since we’ve had this thing — 12-15 years ago — some of our volunteers didn’t realize how special it was and they used it, and all the paint had gotten washed away.”

The shovel was perfectly golden and ready to dig Thursday. Cheryl Millham pushed the golden shovel into the dirt next to her husband.

The shovel’s journey has mirrored that of the Millhams and what LTWC has endured to arrive at a new wildlife care center, which they currently run out of their home.

It all began shortly after 1976, when the Millhams moved to Lake Tahoe. They were managing the marina at Camp Richardson, which was then called Bender’s Camp Richardson’s Marina. They were there for seven seasons. During the second year, Cheryl Millham noticed things happening with wildlife that she didn’t like. No one was doing anything about it.

Tom and Cheryl Millham met with the game warden, whom offered to help with the permit process for a wildlife center. Cheryl Millham later read a magazine article about Wildlife Rescue in Palo Alto, Calif., and a training class offered there. They attended the class, and when they returned, they contacted several agencies and presented a plan. They asked for help from the agencies, and the original center came together on a .75-acre site on Cherry Hills Circle.

The new facility is expected to be open in spring 2017. It will be located on a 27-acre property on Al Tahoe Boulevard near the intersection with Pioneer Trail. This year contractors will take down 160 trees to make room for the site’s planned structures. During the planning stages, a design was worked out that spares most of the larger trees in the area. Grading and infrastructure work are scheduled to take place after that. Next year work on foundations and structures is expected to begin.

The new center will have 12 bird and animal cages, five more than the current center. The new site will also have larger cages and an expanded area for injured birds. It will nearly triple the center’s capacity for animal care.

The wildlife center has raised roughly $3.5 million for the project, about 40 percent of the money it needs. Still, there is confidence the rest of the money will be raised by the end of the year, Tom Millham previously told the Tribune.

To donate, volunteer or for more information about the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, visit

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User