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Tahoe Talks demonstrate recreation planning success

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com
South Lake Tahoe's Bijou Bike Park is being described as a model for city and community led recreation projects.
Sebastian Foltz / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — It’s been less than six months since it opened, but in that time South Lake Tahoe’s Bijou Bike Park has already become a prime example of a successful collaboration between the city and the community. That was the guiding theme behind this month’s Tahoe Talks Brown Bag Lunch series last Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Lake Tahoe Community College.

City public works department and Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA) officials met to present their approach to creating the bike park along with other city projects. They also discussed how their template could be of use for future initiatives.

“It’s incredibly successful,” TAMBA president Ben Fish said of the bike park. “It’s a regional, if not national, model for projects like that.”

Fish and city assistant public works director Jim Marino both credited the organized effort behind the bike park and strong volunteer support that TAMBA brought to the table when the plan was presented to the city for funding.

“It’s easy to ask for something,” Marino said of proposing city projects. “Presenting a plan has a much higher success rate.”

With the TAMBA backing and Fish volunteering his expertise in landscape design for concept drawings, the project had a leg up but still took years to bring from concept to reality.

“In the end it did take a little bit longer than we thought,” Fish said, “but it turned out way better.”

Marino said that without substantial volunteer hours the project would not have been approved.

“Had we contracted this project, it would have easily been over a million [dollars],” Marino said. “We got it done for $200,000. If we’d approached the city council and said this is a million-dollar project, it would never have been built.”

While it may have cost less, mountain bike experts have described the course as world class and comparable, if not better than, similar much more expensive parks. It’s also been described as having the potential to draw regional and even national visitation.

For future projects, Marino suggested that a similar level of organization is key to success.

“We need to have the data behind the plan to support it,” he said. “It comes down to a return on investment.”

The Tahoe Talk panel also discussed ongoing recreational bike path expansion projects like the Al Tahoe Boulevard Safety and Mobility Enhancement Project, which includes connecting Bijou Park to South Lake Tahoe Middle School, as additional examples.

In an effort to continue the “How-to-City” theme, next month’s Tahoe Talk will include a discussion of the town of Truckee’s success with funding recreation projects. The next Tahoe Talk is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, at noon at the community college. Talks are hosted by the Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization and the City of South Lake Tahoe.

More information is available at http://www.tahoeempo.org and http://www.cityofslf.us.


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