Marathon gets U.S.F.S. finish line OK |

Marathon gets U.S.F.S. finish line OK

Mary Thompson

It’s final – the 1999 Lake Tahoe Marathon will finish at the Pope Beach parking lot.

Despite controversy about whether the event disturbs bald eagles in the Pope Beach area, the U.S. Forest Service has agreed to issue a temporary special uses permit to race director Les Wright.

Wright was cited by the U.S. Forest Service last October for allegedly violating terms and conditions of contract and intimidating an employee when he refused to move the race’s finish line from the Pope Beach parking lot to an area that would be less disturbing to a pair of bald eagles nesting nearby. In March, Wright was acquitted of the two misdemeanor charges.

According to Don Lane, U.S. Forest Service recreation forester, a minor change has been made to Wright’s permit this year.

“Instead of finishing at the end of the parking lot, racers will have to double back and finish closer to the west end of the beach,” Lane said.

Wright said he’s happy about the change.

“It’s a nice spot for TV crews to be set up and the beach is much wider there,” he said. “I think it’s going to work out nicely.”

Wright said he expects more than 2,000 runners in this year’s event, which is scheduled for Oct. 10.

As for the eagles, Lane said they’re still a strong concern.

“As (the event) grows each year, it may not be appropriate to have it finish at Pope Beach,” he said. “We’re waiting for the completion of the Bald Eagle Management Plan.”

U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Kevin Laves said the management plan, which is due by the end of the year, will provide a big picture of the eagle habitat in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“It’ll take all recreation events into consideration in South Shore,” he said. “It will rely on some information we’ve collected in the past but it will look into the wintering and breeding season of the eagles and the food in the Taylor Creek area.

“From that we’ll be able to tell if we can handle more recreation events there in the future.”

Wright said no matter how popular the marathon gets over the years, the number of people it draws will never compare to other events held in the basin.

“I’m sure they had many more people there on Fourth of July than there will ever be on a marathon Sunday,” he said. “They’re really majestic animals – they’re not afraid of people.”

Laves said Pope Beach, which is surrounded by a marshy wetland, is good bald eagle habitat.

“The marsh holds water year-round and there’s waterfowl – coots, mallards and grebes – in the marsh and that’s what the eagles feed on,” he said.

Laves said that a pair of bald eagles have nested in the Tahoe Basin each year between 1996 to 1998. He also said he is not aware of any eagles nesting in the basin this year but has heard reports of a bald eagle in the Pope Beach area.

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