South Tahoe’s top stories from 2014 |

South Tahoe’s top stories from 2014

Griffin Rogers

As 2014 comes to a close, many people are undoubtedly thinking about the moments that impacted their lives the most this year and the events that are now etched in history.

We at the Tahoe Daily Tribune are, perhaps predictably, doing the same.

The unknown stories of 2015 will be revealed soon enough. But before they are, we’d like to take a minute to look back at some of the bigger 2014 headlines at Lake Tahoe’s South Shore.

Some, unfortunately, were tragic, while others gave the community a reason to celebrate.

Below are the Tribune’s top 10 stories of 2014, based on reader interest and impact to the area. They are listed in no particular order.

South Shore athletes win gold in Olympics, receive welcome home celebration

South Shore Olympians Jamie Anderson, Maddie Bowman and Hannah Teter were welcomed home by cheering crowds in March, shortly after competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Locals lined the streets to greet the athletes, who rode through part of South Lake Tahoe and Meyers on a vintage 1947 fire truck. The parade ended with a celebration at Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort, where the resort’s “Golden Girls” were given loads of praise and gifts from community officials.

Anderson and Bowman won Olympic gold medals this year for snowboard slopestyle and freeski halfpipe, respectively, and Teter placed fourth in snowboard halfpipe. All three call Meyers their home.

Fireworks shows face cancellation under threat of lawsuit

A Clean Water Act lawsuit nearly ended the long-running Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows at Lake Tahoe this year — action that could have led to a loss of millions of dollars in economic impact in the area had the litigation not been settled.

A lawsuit settlement, however, was reached on March 31.

Marla Bay residents Joan and Joseph Truxler, who sued Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars North after large amounts of fireworks debris washed up on area beaches the previous year, agreed to drop the lawsuit under certain conditions.

The fireworks shows carried on with the promise that extra precautions and cleanup efforts would be taken in the future.

Bears, bears, bears

Remember that photo in mid-January of a black bear ambling across a World Cup run at Heavenly Mountain Resort?

Skiers paused to watch the animal as it darted across the slope without incident and vanish into the woods on the other side.

Former Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Tom Lotshaw took the photo while out on another assignment for the newspaper. Using some quick reflexes, he managed to snap a picture of the moment before the bear disappeared.

The photo was shown on several major news networks, reaching audiences around the nation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lotshaw’s accompanying article, “Bear turns heads at World Cup,” was the Tribune’s most-read story from the South Shore in


Drought impacts businesses, Tahoe water level

Updates on California’s continuing drought — one of the worst on record — have been featured prominently through nearly every news outlet across the state this year, and there’s hardly any mystery why.

Snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed in California. And after receiving less than average snowfall and precipitation the past few years, surface and groundwater reservoirs have depleted.

At Lake Tahoe, water elevation reached a five-year low and dropped under the lake’s natural rim in the fall, and many businesses in the area that thrive off winter recreation were hurt by the lack of snow and revenue.

Other businesses geared more toward warmer activities, however, reported the busiest winter in years in January. That may be because 2014 was the state’s warmest year in more than a century of record keeping.

Deaths of young South Lake Tahoe residents shake community

Just a few weeks after 21-year-old Aimee Campos was killed in a car crash in South Lake Tahoe, reports came in that 14-year-old Dejon Smith was killed instantly when a large tree fell on him during a December storm.

Both were locals, and the community’s reaction to their deaths was a mix of shock and sadness.

Campos died Nov. 24 while she was reportedly riding in the front seat of a Saturn sedan. The crash occurred in the area of Pioneer Trail and Edna Street.

Smith died after being struck by a falling 50-foot pine tree during strong wind conditions, according to officials. He was initially reported missing, about a day before his body was found on Dec. 13 in a wooded area behind the 3400 block of Rancho Way.

Voters hit the polls

Usually an election year is accompanied by plenty of change, and that held true in 2014.

Locally, the majority of voters chose to end paid parking at Lakeview Commons and Lakeside Beach, renew a tax to support the South Lake Tahoe Public Library, approve a $55 million Lake Tahoe Community College bond measure and reject a parcel tax that would have helped fund certain programs in the Lake Valley Fire Protection District.

Two new members — Wendy David and Austin Sass — were also voted onto the South Lake Tahoe City Council, along with incumbent Tom Davis. And Sue Novasel won a seat on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to represent the local district.

King Fire burns through nearly 98,000 acres west of Lake Tahoe

The King Fire started Sept. 13 near Pollock Pines and burned almost 98,000 acres before it was fully contained.

Twelve single residences and 68 other minor structures were destroyed in the blaze, which also resulted in 12 injuries.

A grand jury announced its decision to indict Pollock Pines resident Wayne Allen Huntsman, the man accused of starting the fire, on charges of felony arson in December.

The massive fire was said to have caused more than $6.5 million in damages.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe comes to South Shore

After weeks of speculation as to what would become of the old Horizon Casino Resort in Stateline, Nev., officials announced in July that a new Hard Rock hotel and casino would be moving in.

The resort is still in the process of a $60 million renovation. But once work is finished, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe will feature 539 rooms, a 25,000-square-foot casino, an assortment of entertainment and multiple restaurants and bars.

The resort is set to open Jan. 28.

Tahoe Queen gets stuck on sandbar, hundreds rescued

About 300 passengers on the Tahoe Queen were evacuated in August after the paddle wheeler ran aground about 1 mile off shore.

The vessel had recently departed for a day cruise when it became stuck in about four to six feet of water, officials at the time said. No one was injured in the incident, but it did capture the attention of the public as passengers waited to be taken off the boat safely.

Once the Queen was evacuated, investigators focused on moving it off the sandbar — an effort that took a couple days to accomplish. Before long, the Tahoe Queen was back on Lake Tahoe continuing its tours.

Construction projects start, finish

It seemed construction headlines were as prevalent as the sound of jackhammers, chainsaws and compactors in 2014.

The past year featured a variety of construction projects that have permanently changed South Lake Tahoe’s infrastructure, such as completion of the Harrison Avenue project and the retail phase of the Chateau project.

A once seemingly abandoned construction zone at the California-Nevada state line, the Chateau project has become more than its previously dubbed nickname — “The Ta-hole” — by locals.

The long-standing fence was taken down in May, and several businesses now occupy the street-front buildings along Highway 50.

The Harrison Avenue improvement project was also completed in 2014, adding new sidewalks, lighting, bike trails, landscaping and storm water upgrades in what city officials consider to be a key sector of the community.

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