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Landowner pursues sports camp on South Shore

Patrick McCartney

A South Lake Tahoe property owner is proposing to build a multiple-use sports camp on his property as an alternative to the proposed Golden Bear Park, which has been tied up in regulatory red tape.

Harold Edelstein, an elderly Southern Californian, is interested in creating Trout Creek Campground and Recreation Area on the 80 acres he owns southwest of Pioneer and Golden Bear trails, said his representative, Paul Kaleta of Basin Strategies.

While Edelstein has not filed a formal application with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the agency placed the proposed sports camp on its five-year recreation facility planning list in February, said John Hitchcock, a TRPA associate planner.

To build baseball and soccer fields, a campground, riding and hiking trails, and possibly a dormitory for sports participants, Edelstein would need to obtain a special-use permit from the agency’s governing board, Hitchcock said.

If he is successful, Edelstein would finally be able to develop the land he has sought to either sell or develop for more than a decade. So far, he has encountered one obstacle after another, Kaleta said.

Years ago, Edelstein owned a larger parcel closer to Cold Creek, but the Forest Service approached him and offered to trade the sensitive property for two smaller parcels of higher-capability land, Kaleta said.

“The Forest Service told him they would trade him for land ‘in the path of future urban development,'” Kaleta said.

Nancy Schwieger, a supervisory realty specialist with the Forest Service, said records from 1967 indicate the agency traded 90 acres for Edelstein’s 120 acres, but the surviving documents do not spell out the reason for the trade. Edelstein would be allowed up to 20 acres of hard coverage on his property under TRPA rules.

Since the swap, however, Edelstein has been thwarted in his attempt to build a condominium project on the property, and later a single-family home on the property, because it was located outside the urban boundary.

“Boy, has he been had,” Kaleta said. “There was no coordination between the federal government and local agencies. He’s tired of hitting his head against the wall at what he can’t do; now we’re concentrating on what he can do.”

Kaleta said Edelstein has the financial ability to develop the property himself, but is willing to sell the land to others as a sports facility site, or back to the Forest Service. He has rejected a past offer for his land from the California-Tahoe Conservancy that he considered inadequate, Kaleta added.

The uses Edelstein has proposed are consistent with the goals of the plan area where the property is located, Hitchcock confirmed.

Two South Shore recreation commissioners who have been frustrated in building a recreational center on land the Forest Service purchased with Burton-Santini funds said Wednesday they want to learn more about the suitability of Edelstein’s property.

“The county is willing look at any viable alternative to Golden Bear Park,” said Steve Yonkers, a member of the El Dorado County Parks and Recreation Commission. Yonkers said a key factor would be whether the Edelstein property has enough buildable area to accommodate the type of facility the county would like to see built.

“We’re real interested in talking to him,” Yonkers said.

Dan McLaughlin, a South Lake Tahoe recreation commissioner, said the city is also interested in exploring the potential of Edelstein’s land.

“Private-public partnerships have been tried in other areas and have been quite successful,” McLaughlin said.

But McLaughlin added that one hitch in the proposal may be questions over access to the property, which is adjacent to a residential neighborhood. Even so, McLaughlin said the need for new recreation facilities is significant.

“Anything we can build of any kind would be beneficial,” McLaughlin said.


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