Column: Airport issue still haunts Tahoe |

Column: Airport issue still haunts Tahoe

Presidential candidates Gore and Bush have nothing on South Lake Tahoe. Their heads may be whipping around with each sudden change in this seemingly ceaseless presidential election, but they only have had to endure the drama for little more than a month.

At the South Shore, residents have been whipped by the constantly changing drama of redevelopment for more than a decade.

This week was a great example. Just as business people and residents breathe a sigh of relief as American Ski Corporation finds another business investor to continue its part of the South Shore’s Park Avenue project, Allegiant Air announces it is pulling out of the Lake Tahoe Airport.

On the one hand progress, on the other failure. That’s what the South Shore has been living with ever since it decided to become more than a tacky tourist town trapped in a time warp.

Like most risks, it has come with costs.

But it is time to reassess. Some projects, like Heavenly’s huge gamble to rebuild itself as a destination resort, are working. Others, like the repeated failed efforts to establish jet service to Lake Tahoe, obviously aren’t.

Soon most people in this town will discover Heavenly Ski Resort hasn’t been sitting idly by, floundering in corporate financial woes. It has created an attraction like no other at any resort around the world. When Heavenly unveils its new gondola next week, many eyes around town will be opened, and quite impressed.

This unbelievable achievement will leave most people slack jawed. It is truly a wonder, with its 360 degree view of the lake and the Carson Valley.

Even more wondrous is that the gondola is just the beginning. Other projects on the mountain, which probably won’t be completed for five years or more, will make Lake Tahoe a standout resort.

And there is no reason to believe that after American Ski’s merger with MeriStar Hotels and Resorts that the rest of the Park Avenue project will be any less spectacular. In the meantime, redevelopment fever has paid off with a number of smaller projects throughout the South Shore.

So we are building it. But getting “them” to come may be a more difficult proposition.

Any number of reasons have been given as to the Lake Tahoe Airport’s inability to retain jet service. But the bottom line has been frustrating and costly.

One of the more divisive issues at the South Shore for more than a decade, the airport has been given more attention and money than just about any other facility around.

Is it worth it? Will redevelopment spur airport activity? If so, when?

Or should the community cut its loses and use that land for something other than a huge money pit with a politically costly manned control tower?

That’s a question this community must decide now.

It’s become silly to chase after our jet service tails without a viable plan. The airport in its current incarnation is simply not working.

It’s time to reexamine the airport with open minds, inviting all sensible ideas. It’s a community asset and the community should reach consensus its next incarnation.

Unless, of course, we would like the airport issue to continue to whipsaw this community like the presidential election is whipsawing the nation.

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