Let the sunshine in | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Let the sunshine in

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Jim Grant/Tahoe TribuneGreg Fish installs new signage on a hiking trail near the U.S. Forest Service Visitors Center.

People in shorts, barbecue displays, boats on Lake Tahoe and work crews — the signs of the first summer season since Sept. 11 are here.

Baldwin Beach — a popular spot for kayakers to launch — will open Saturday. Pope Beach — a preferred picnicking location — will open the following Saturday.

Campground by the Lake, Camp Richardson, Fallen Leaf Lake and Nevada Beach are already open.

Lake Tahoe’s largest land manager welcomes the busiest season of the year with a new look, when it throws its gates open by Memorial Day weekend.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit will greet visitors at the area surrounding the Taylor Creek Visitors Center with new signs that weekend. They’re designed by the same Portland-based artist who fashioned the Rainbow Trail signs.

“This is such a nice continuity,” U.S. Forest Service senior interpreter Gay Eitel said.

This was one of the aims. LTBMU also wanted to make the signs more user-friendly, with larger graphics and easier-to-understand copy.

The Forest Service follows a trend in which vacationing families want to learn about the area they’re visiting.

“I’ve noticed that since we’ve been doing these renewal projects, we’ve seen increased visitation and increased diversity,” Eitel said, adding she’s noticed more senior citizens. LTBMU plans to develop a demographic survey that will verify the profile of its visitors.

“There will be something new out here for everyone, whether you’ve been here or not,” Eitel said.

Seven new signs are going up at Inspiration Point, three on the Smokey (the Bear) Trail and 11 on the Forest Trail — one of the older ones.

“We’re hoping to pull people out here,” Eitel said. Fewer people tend to pound the path of the Forest Trail, compared to the Rainbow Trail, for instance, she added.

More than 300,000 people tour the Taylor Creek-area site. Half use the visitors center and 225,000 flow through the stream profile chamber to learn about the kokanee salmon that spawn up Taylor Creek.

More Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend than last year’s, but fewer will fly, AAA reported Thursday.

Marking the start of the first summer travel season since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, AAA predicted that 35.2 million U.S. travelers would hit the road. That’s a 1 percent boost from the year before.

Air travel will continue to lag though, down 7 percent from 2001. On the flip side, about 2 percent more motorists will tour the nation with gasoline prices bucking trends and remaining steady.

“The patterns we saw this winter will probably stay in place,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Bill Chernock said Thursday. “We’ll see more of the drive-up market and less of the destination traveler.”

International travel has remained slow since Sept. 11.

The Travel Industry Association predicts a return to normal traffic patterns by next winter and spring.

South Lake Tahoe relies heavily on road travelers — especially from its mainstay feeder markets such as the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.

The LTVA has placed a marketing emphasis on the Bay Area markets in an attempt to get more room nights. Sacramento visitors tend to come up the hill for the day.

“It’s an important summer. I think we’re doing the right thing, given the external factors,” Chernock said. He adds the lake has a strong summer lineup, including a double bang for the buck with the Fourth of July holiday landing on a separate week from the Celebrity Golf Championship.

The South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association welcomes the effort.

President Jim Foff, who runs the Fantasy Inn, said bookings are off by at least 10 percent.

“But they tell me bookings are coming in for the summer — but slowly,” he said.

Foff is keeping his eye on high employment in the San Jose area.

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