Most complying at former ‘Dog Beach’ |

Most complying at former ‘Dog Beach’

Andy Bourelle

Since the U.S. Forest Service started enforcing its several-year-old prohibition of dogs at the Visitors Center beach this year, residents have either been happy, upset or confused by the regulations. Or, in some cases, people are oblivious of the rule.

South Lake Tahoe resident Dan Franzman said Monday he was unaware of the regulation. He said he frequently visits the area with his dogs. He keeps them on a leash until they are right beside the water and can run into the lake.

All of that is considered OK in the areas surrounding the beach, but not on the beach itself. But he said has been on the beach recently – and has seen neither sign saying “no dogs allowed” nor anyone enforcing it.

“(If someone were to tell me no dogs are allowed there) I’d be bummed. This is the only spot where I thought it was cool to bring your dogs,” Franzman said.

For years, regulations have existed prohibiting dogs at the U.S. Forest Service’s Visitors Center Beach, which is in the area of Taylor Creek.

Earlier in the 1990s, when the Lake Tahoe Basin was subject to drought years, there were vast areas of beaches where people could walk their dogs. Then the Forest Service had no problems, and there was little need to enforce the rules.

In recent years, the lake level has risen. Beaches have shrunken or disappeared, and dogs have increased at the Visitors Center Beach. Numerous beach visitors were bothered by dogs running, barking and fighting, according to the Forest Service. Dogs can disturb a nearby wildlife sanctuary, too.

The Forest Service started enforcing the longtime rule this spring.

“Right now, we have not had any complaints from anyone from the general public complaining that dogs are disturbing them running around, being down there when there are signs saying ‘No dogs are allowed,’ when normally at this time of year we would have a lot of complaints,” said Mike St. Michel, visitor’s center director for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “(The regulation) seems to be working for us.”

Since the early weeks of enforcing the rules, there have only been a few citations, said Bill Johnson, law enforcement officer for the Forest Service.

“We’ve actually gotten really good compliance,” he said.

Dogs are permitted on the Rainbow Trail and other hiking areas near the beach. They have to be on leashes, which is an El Dorado County law. Leashed dogs also are allowed from Kiva Point to Valhalla, commonly called Kiva Beach. However, Kiva Beach isn’t much of a beach any more because of the lake’s high level.

When the Forest Service announced its intention to start enforcing the dog prohibition, many residents were upset. Without that beach, there are almost no easily accessible beaches where people can take their dogs in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

South Lake Tahoe resident Jerry Oldenkamp wrote a letter to the editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune after he found out. His phone number was published with the letter, and he received more than 100 phone calls over the next few days from concerned people.

After that he met with Forest Service officials to discuss the regulation, and he was pleased with the results. However, Forest Service didn’t agree to change their regulation. They agreed to help clarify it.

Oldenkamp is supposed to help the Forest Service erect better signs for the area. He said he thought people would be satisfied that areas around the sandy beach were OK for dogs.

Others don’t agree and want a sandy beach area.

“I don’t think that’s really enough,” said Alex Mellon, South Lake Tahoe resident. “I want a designated beach where you are able to bring your dog to. An actual beach beach.”

Mellon said he has had more than 700 people sign a petition, urging the Forest Service to provide a beach where dogs are allowed. He said he wants to hold a public meeting where residents can discuss the issue with the Forest Service.

The Forest Service’s Johnson said he estimates 20 percent of the people he has heard from are against the agency enforcing the regulation. About 80 percent are in favor of it.

Nancy Knowlton of South Lake Tahoe, who frequently takes her dog to the nearby areas, said she supports the enforcement.

“I think it’s really good. When we went down there before there would be big dogs fighting, dogs running around, owners having fights because their dogs were fighting,” Knowlton said. “We said, ‘We’re not going down there anymore.”

In fact, she wishes the Forest Service would enforce the rule more. She said she hasn’t seen anyone enforcing it, and the signs aren’t clear.

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