Parking goes public on East Shore |

Parking goes public on East Shore

Greg Risling

Tahoe’s most recognized agencies will bring the debate over parking on the East Shore to the public over the next two months.

A series of three “scoping” sessions have been scheduled in Kings Beach, Stateline and Carson City in February and March to gauge the community’s response about an issue that hampers one of the area’s last developed shorelines.

The various basin agencies want further public input to a 1996 study that identified several locations for parking lots. The traffic management plan was compiled by Leigh, Scott and Cleary, a Tahoe City-based transportation firm. According to Don Lane, recreation supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service, residents can seize the chance at these meetings to contribute their comments about parking.

“If people don’t get involved their concerns might not be heard,” he said. “And then they will have to live with the results.”

With only a handful of parking lots on the East Shore, the majority of visitors who recreate at hidden beaches use shoulder parking on State Route 28. Parking a few feet from the winding highway is a dangerous choice for beach-goers but is also a concern to environmental planners. Visitors who don’t follow marked trails contribute to the erosion of the steep hillsides. The result, say experts, is a damaged ecosystem and a lake that continues to lose clarity.

The Nevada Department of Transportation experimented last year by eliminating a half-mile section of shoulder parking on the highway. The Tahoe Transportation District implemented a weekend shuttle that transported waiting passengers from Spooner Summit and Incline Village. The parking ban limited visitors’ options and many of those familiar with the issue say there must be alternatives available to users.

“There are a number of people using this area that are affected by our decisions,” said Pam Drum, public information officer for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “We have to find solutions to the parking situation.”

There are several areas where parking lots could either be expanded or built. They include Tunnel Creek (40 spaces), Marlette Creek (90 spaces), west U.S. Forest Service near Secret Cove (50 spaces), Secret Harbor (60 spaces) and Bliss Creek (131 spaces).

Meeting under the direction of TEAM Tahoe, a group devoted to East Shore issues, agency representatives want to look at developing three of those sites.

They realize that even with new parking lots, the number of spaces may be cut in half. Shoulder parking allows 350 to 400 automobiles, whereas a couple of lots would only provide 150 to 200 spaces.

Kay Bennett, head of TEAM Tahoe, said one source of funding may come from the National Scenic Byway Program. SR 28 has been designated a national treasure but another round of funding later this year may free up $1 million.

The TEAM Tahoe meetings have facilitated more discussion about the parking problems but also has brought compromise among the organizations. The people involved understand they must be in unison before they bring concepts to the public.

“We went into this with open minds when the planning began,” said North Swanson, spokesperson for the Tahoe Area Naturists. The group has been very vocal about the shuttle and the shoulder parking. “We didn’t want to get frozen out of the discussion. We want to be part of the solution.”

Comments gathered from the scoping sessions are required for detailed environmental documents that must be filed by TRPA and the Forest Service. There are many pieces to solving the East Shore puzzle but planners are committed to working with residents in the upcoming weeks.

“The on-shoulder parking is detrimental to the environment and our key goal is protecting that corridor,” Bennett said. “We’ve made good progress in the last few months.”

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