Guest view: Paddle fest a prime example of geotourism |

Guest view: Paddle fest a prime example of geotourism

Lauren Thomaselli

Provided to the TribunePake and Tom "Pohaku" Stone work with children to turn a slab of cedar into a paddle board.

What’s all this talk about geotourism? It is such a new concept that you can’t find the word in a dictionary.

Much more than traditional tourism, geotourism as defined by National Geographic as “tourism that sustains or enhances the unique geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and well-being of its local residents.” In other words, for us locals, geotourism is everything that we love about Tahoe and why we live here. More importantly, geotourism represents the future sustainability of both our economy and our pristine environment.

The recent Tahoe Paddle Fest represents everything that geotourism stands for and sets a precedent for future geotourist events. First, TPF’s primary recreation focus, paddling, is one that has low environmental impacts and provides the aesthetic enjoyment of being on Lake Tahoe. Secondly, TPF incorporated culture and heritage by inviting both Washoe tribal members and Hawaiian natives to celebrate their ancient traditions, crafts and ceremonies relating to water resources. Throughout the weekend, the Washoe and the Hawaiians took time to interpret their language and rituals for the locals and visitors who were in attendance.

Thirdly, TPF enhanced the well-being of its local residents by inviting local businesses to promote sustainability efforts and provide informational booths that highlight recreation, art, culture and environment.

Another community benefit was to the Boys & Girls Club, which was selected to receive proceeds from the event.

Finally, the most powerful and memorable aspect of the TPF weekend was watching a huge slab of cedar be transformed into a paddle board and paddle. This activity was guided by Hawaiian natives, Pake and Tom “Pohaku” Stone. Locals and visitors of all ages were invited to participate in the hand-carving process. Members of the Ohlone tribe also constructed a tule reed canoe on site with the help of some children from the Washoe and Piaute tribes. The canoe was immediately water-tested and went home with the children.

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Geotourism seeks to provide an authentic, memorable and life-changing experience for visitors and locals. TPF clearly accomplished this with these activities. The weekend was concluded by raffling off the hand-carved board that fittingly went to a Santa Cruz couple visiting South Lake Tahoe. Do you think they are going to remember their stay and come back? Absolutely! Moreover, they will likely schedule their vacation around next years’ Tahoe Paddle Fest.

The time has come to re-direct our marketing strategy to promote the obvious assets that we love about living in Lake Tahoe without compromising the quality of those assets. This is the mission of the El Dorado Geotourism Council. Visit to learn more about the next free community workshop and find out how to nominate assets that are unique to the geographic character of Lake Tahoe. Ultimately, with the support of the community, South Lake Tahoe will be nationally recognized as a sustainable geotourism destination. Mahalo Tahoe Paddle Fest organizers for setting the example for future geotourism events!

– Lauren Thomaselli is recreation coordinator with Explore Tahoe: An Urban Trailhead.