Should Zephyr Shoals buildings be demolished? |

Should Zephyr Shoals buildings be demolished?

Julie Nelson

Couldn’t a nonprofit organization be formed for the sole purpose of making this expensive government acquisition into a valuable community asset, one that would provide the whole community, and its visitors, with an additional resource for entertainment and learning – including a beach access?

One of the proposals submitted to the Forest Service was for an “arts, recreation, and learning compound.” This “dream” was given the name TAAZS (Tahoe Arts and Activities at Zephyr Shoals).

Supporters of TAAZS certainly did not want to have their proposal kept private and do not know why the Forest Service felt that they needed to keep these submissions confidential. Not all aspects would have to be revealed, but definitely, the public (supposed owners of this property) should have been privy to the concepts.

The TAAZS proposal was an extensive one; it encompassed ideas for the total property that would serve all ages of residents and visitors. The current buildings were to provide space for fund-raising, offices, art display, gift shop, classroom and entertainment space. Why are they planning to destroy them?

If the buildings were not to be utilized, why was such an issue made of the acquisition of them (and the driveway area) by the Park family? The Parks would have been able to afford to develop this area and it would have been available to the public, a large part (if not all) of the year.

The Forest Service makes it sound like the beach availability is the most important thing. Well, the largest beach is adjacent to the Zephyr Cove Beach (it increases the ZC beach by about 25 percent). Two other very small beaches are at each side of the residence – it is questionable that the north one is exactly a beach. The three beaches will probably accommodate about 100 people. This is not another Sand Harbor, Camp Richardson or Nevada Beach.

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Tahoe is blessed with many wonderful hiking and wilderness areas that are open for enjoyment by the public. This property would always be available to the public, but enhanced with many activities, such as orienteering and geocaching – activities for youth and families, that are not available in the vicinity and would enhance enjoyment of the natural areas. Of course, the beaches would be open and easily accessible.

The Dreyfus Estate section of the 81-acre parcel (about 25 percent of it – adjacent to the Skyland Development – was acquired by the FS some time ago) was acquired in a $38 million land swap. This is a “jewel property” in a residential area. I believe that the best use for it would be as a multipurpose, park-type venture that would support itself. It would/will be a huge undertaking, but if governmental and volunteer groups pitch in I believe it could become a reality. It is probably frightening to the Forest Service; perhaps the U.S. Parks Service should have been given the property. As the Forest Service said at the Nov. 5, 2003, meeting, this property was different than the ones they were used to handling.

It is questionable that the TAAZS proposal was ever given any consideration.

The Prospectus for the Development, Operation and Maintenance of Zephyr Shoals did not have provisions for nonprofits. The TAAZS concept did not fit into a simple operating plan. Operating procedures were included throughout the proposal. It was submitted Feb. 27, 2004.

In mid-March, 2004, TAAZS received a registered package that included a letter from Maribeth Gustafson. The letter stated that the proposal was not complete, missing owners’ information, and that it contained good ideas and the Forest Service appreciated the submission – but it would not be advanced. After receipt of the letter and returned items, a letter of explanation was sent to Ms. Gustafson.

They were looking for a commercial operator with ample financial resources – an Aramark of Heavenly-type Corporation. However, the commercial opportunities must not have been great enough, as I had expected. (The Forest Service had put numerous restrictions on how the property could be used. Also, the development requirements would be extremely expensive – ADA requirements, highway access, roads and parking, county water and fire protection would need to be tackled, in addition to meeting TRPA, NEPA and other governmental requirements, before making specific use improvements.) I would not have considered being involved in a commercial operation. I was hopeful that when this became evident, the Forest Service would consider TAAZS, among their other options. After all, they were looking for the best use of this public land, acquired at great expense, weren’t they?

The Forest Service has also indicated that the building would require considerable rehabilitation. But the building was inspected by Yonkers Construction and given a good grade.

A nonprofit operation would have many advantages. It would be eligible for numerous kinds of fund monies, grants and donations of financial support and volunteer services. As a nonprofit, it could still operate profitable enterprises – like weddings and other profit-raising activities to support the operation. Taxes would have to be paid on such profit-raising activities. This would be an enterprise that would offer a service opportunity to the community. TAAZS would provide volunteers with an outlet for their service and a social atmosphere, bringing together individuals of similar interests. Employee expenses would be kept low by utilizing many volunteers.

The reason I decided to volunteer so many hours, required to submit a proposal, was the hope that a nonprofit, with business aspects, could be formed to create a wonderful community enterprise to be enjoyed by anyone experiencing Tahoe. The potential for Zephyr Shoals is immeasurable. The work and expense of such an undertaking are probably immeasurable also, but not impossible. Unless others are ready to take up this cause, this is probably the last you will hear of TAAZS or its concepts. If such a cause is taken up, I will be happy to help.

– Julie Nelson is founding director of Tahoe Arts & Activities Zephyr Shoals, Inc. She can be reached at