Sierra State Parks: Preserve, restore, educate, advocate (Opinion)

Norma Santiago
Guest column

When describing a special Lake Tahoe experience, several images come to mind. These images could include that great hike; cycling to an event or place that inspires; fishing in one of the many water tributaries that feed into Lake Tahoe, if not the lake itself; there’s the camping, swimming, or just simply gathering with family and friends to share in a memorable experience.

Where one chooses to have this type of experience are as varied as the experiences themselves. I would like to invite you to explore this opportunity through Lake Tahoe-Donner California State Parks.

The mission of the Sierra State Parks Foundation is to support the Lake Tahoe-Donner Lake State Parks for education, interpretation, preservation, and advocacy in partnership with California State Parks to create welcoming visitor experiences. From nature talks, historic house tours to interpretive signage, educational programs, and historic preservation projects, SSPF plays a critical role in filling the gap where State Parks leaves off providing staff, volunteers, funding, and partnership to the California State Parks in the Lake Tahoe-Donner region.

Currently, the restoration of the Pioneer Monument at Donner Memorial State Parks is entering its final phase while design plans for the second project phase, which include some landscaping and the building of an outdoor pavilion, are well underway. In 2019, SSPF established the Vikingsholm Forever Endowment Fund to help ensure the preservation of this important historic building.

There are all kinds of activities and recreational opportunities available at the other parks such as Sugar Pine Point State Park, D.L. Bliss State Park, Kings Beach State Recreational Area. The Tahoe State Recreational Area, which is in Tahoe City, provides great camping while allowing the visitor to connect to other recreational and cultural activities, and was one of the first parks of the state system. Then there is one of our best kept secrets, Washoe Meadows.

Established as a state park in 1987, Washoe Meadows plays an important to the water clarity and water quality of Lake Tahoe, which at that time, was severely threatened by significant development. Historically, Washoe Tribe traditionally spent their summers there and is for whom the park is named. Washoe Meadows has some incredible wildflowers including the Star Lily which is a native plant only found in Washoe Meadows.

There are spectacular “little” meadows that are covered with all kinds of flowers which adds a wonderful fragrance to the air; however, there is a cluster of small white flowers which when smelled closely tend to smell of dirty socks thus the name “Dirty Sock.” The fens located in Washoe Meadows are unusual wetlands that act as a water filter for the North Upper Truckee River which ultimately flows to Lake Tahoe. Finally, there is the vast, large meadow. There are not enough words to describe the wonderful beauty of that place.

The Lake Tahoe experience provided by these parks make these public spaces unique treasures worthy of our support. By donating to the Sierra State Parks Foundation, you play an important role in helping us fulfill our mission. Please visit our website, for more information on how to volunteer, attend one of our fun events, or become a donor.

Norma Santiago is Board President for the Sierra State Parks Foundation.

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