It’s a critical time for recreation |

It’s a critical time for recreation

by Danny Mclaughlin

South Lake Tahoe is in the business of Recreation. The city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Commission held an important meeting on Monday May 21.

As the chairman of this commission I would like to use this forum to bring the community up to date on what transpired at that meeting.

We are entering into one of the most CRITICAL times for recreation. With the passage of Measure S, the leadership of the City Council, the cooperation of the business community and the foresight of the current Parks and Recreation staff, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the face of recreation in our community once and for all.

The city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Department is the lead agency in most of the changes that lie ahead. All members of the South Shore community need to be aware of the changes because they are broad based and far reaching. The two most important components in this changing face are the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Area (SLTRA) and Measure S. Additionally, a BMX track is being built.

Let’s start with the SLTRA. This is a 56-acre parcel of land located near Lakeview Boulevard in the center of town. A conceptual master plan has been developed to create a vision on how this area can be maximized as a source of public recreation, cultural resources and public service. The plan divides the SLTRA into six areas of distinct usage: County Library; Campground by the Lake; Lake Oriented Recreation; The Lodge; Recreation Complex and a Civic Use Area.

The County Library is an existing facility in the northeast corner of the site that includes the library and the dedicated parking lot. It is expected to remain in its current use with some potential for expansion of the library building. The master plan considers the library the central element of the public service part of the equation.

The Lodge area includes a child care facility, associated parking lot and public rest room. The rest rooms are primarily by users of the athletic fields located at Al Tahoe Elementary School (primarily Little League and AYSO). No significant changes are anticipated in this area.

The Recreation Complex includes the Recreation Center, the site of the old South Tahoe Ice Center and the accompanying parking lot. This will remain the focal point of city-sponsored recreation programs and activities. The most significant change is that the new Ice Rink is to be built on the site of the old one. It is to be NHL size, with locker rooms, skate rental facilities, spectator seating, meeting rooms and an arcade. It is part of the Measure S program and will be discussed at length later. The other significant changes will be a road is to be built that will connect the parking lot to Highway 50 at Tallac Avenue.

The Civic Use area includes the Senior Center, Historical Society facilities, Art Building, the Chamber Commerce, a bus stop and parking lot. The new road connecting the Recreation Complex parking lot to Hwy 50 at Tallac Avenue will border this area. There will also be an open grass area or commons built where community gatherings can occur in the area just north of the Chamber of Commerce. Specific improvements could also include a small amphitheater, picnicking areas, or a site for additional public buildings. Should a civic center be built, it could be located here. The Senior Center, Historical Society, Art Building and Chamber of Commerce would either stay in their present configuration or be included in any new buildings.

The Campground by the Lake area includes primarily the existing campground and the areas currently used as the city corporation yard and El Dorado County Vector Control. To be consistent with the uses defined by the master plan, the corporate yard and vector control need to be relocated so the campground can be expanded and improved. New amenities in the form of additional hookups, camping structures (sleeping cabins, a tent village etc.) and shower/restroom facilities are planned.

The improvements to the Campground by the Lake are the most important part of this master plan. The City Council has mandated that the Recreation Department raise the majority of its operating budget through usage fees. The campground is currently one of the largest producers of usage fees in the city. These improvements will increase the revenues currently generated and allow the recreation department to support current and future recreation programs.

Additionally, Caltrans plans to complete a sidewalk, curb and gutter-landscaping project that parallel Highway 50 along the side of the campground. In order for this to be done, they must build two to three small, and one large water treatment retention ponds between the Chamber of Commerce and Pizza Hut. The site of the large pond needs to be in an area that would have the least impact on the other projects. The preferred site would be the building that used to house the Women’s Center, the road that leads to it and the adjacent garage. The buildings, parking area and driveway will be removed to make room for the water treatment retention ponds. There is little planned in that area, so building the pond and landscaping the area would greatly improve the aesthetics of the whole SLTRA.

The BMX track, which is being spearheaded by John and Lauren Thomaselli, is being built in the unused area between the South Tahoe Middle School Track and Al Tahoe Elementary School. Dirt is currently being hauled in and the layout of the track itself is being planned by the Thomasellis. It should be open by sometime this summer.

-Editor’s note…This is the first of two parts from Danny McLaughlin, the chairman of the city’s recreation board.

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