Patrick Wright: Let’s work together on Bijou Creek (opinion)
Tribune Guest Column
The Tahoe Conservancy has received a great deal of attention over its review of the City of South Lake Tahoe’s proposal to redevelop the Knight’s Inn property and restore Bijou Creek. I want to clear up misconceptions about the history of this project, and give our perspective.
The Conservancy has a long track record of investing in projects that have helped transform the South Shore’s environment and our community, including Lakeview Commons, Van Sickle Bi-State Park, the Upper Truckee River, and the South Shore’s growing bike trail network.
At first, the Bijou Park Creek project seemed very promising. It had the potential to restore the historic stream environment zone (SEZ) on the parcel, daylight Bijou Creek, and replace a large aging motel with a more compact and sustainable mixed use development that would take advantage of its natural surroundings.
But as details of the project began to emerge, a broad spectrum of agencies and organizations became alarmed that it was an uninspiring suburban-style development. Although the project would collect stormwater from the surrounding property, it was not the transformative project that we had all envisioned. The SEZ restoration promised in the city’s grant application, for example, was scaled back significantly to make room for a sea of parking.
When it became apparent the project was not what we and others had hoped, we insisted that the city meet its commitment to work collaboratively with the Conservancy, TRPA, and the community to improve its design. Unfortunately, that never happened.
I realize that our expectations have frustrated the city, which invested a great deal of time and money on its application. But the Conservancy was being asked to invest a third of all the state water bond restoration funds in the Tahoe Basin on this project. We have a responsibility to ensure that it would truly restore one of the few remaining historic wetlands in the city and be embraced by the community.
Can the project still move forward? Absolutely. But only if we work together, rather than engage in finger-pointing and lawsuits, on a design that matches the grandeur of our setting.
Patrick Wright is executive director of California Tahoe Conservancy.