South Lake Tahoe looks to restrict nighttime parking near popular ‘Party Rock’

Some say the graffiti problem at Party Rock has worsened in recent years.
Ryan Hoffman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

For decades, the area known as “Party Rock” has been a nighttime destination for illicit behavior.

Now, with some pointing toward an escalation in activity and increasing safety concerns, local officials are trying to put an end to the party.

At the direction of council, the city of South Lake Tahoe is crafting an ordinance that would restrict parking on the main entryway to Party Rock — which is on U.S. Forest Service land but within city boundaries — to daytime hours only.

Additionally, city officials are working with the Forest Service to try and restrict use hours at Party Rock, which is currently open 24 hours a day, to daytime only, while also reaching an agreement that would allow city police to enforce the restrictions.

In taking this approach, officials hope to strike a balance between allowing access to the area while cutting back on behavior that is detrimental to the environment and a potential hazard.

The primary access point is at the end of Spiral Way, a short dead-end road off Upper Saddle Road in the southeastern corner of city limits. Spiral Way serves as the de facto parking area to access the Forest Service land, which is popular with mountain bikers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

It’s an access point for Van Sickle Bi-State Park and the Tahoe Rim Trail. Party Rock also provides expansive views of Lake Tahoe and the South Shore.

However, the illegal activities at Party Rock have become more noticeable and more intolerable for nearby residents. The escalation in nighttime activity lead residents to approach the city in the summer of 2017 to try and find a solution.

As several people noted during a June 5 City Council meeting, some of the graffiti on the rocks — a long-time plague at Party Rock — appears to be gang related.

Along with the broken glass from beer bottles and used condoms, used needles have started showing up in the trash left behind.

Perhaps the biggest concern stems from potential wildfire. It’s not unheard of to find remnants of a fire, which is illegal, the following morning. With entire subdivisions adjacent to Party Rock, a wildfire in the area could quickly become devastating.

Asked how residents felt about the proposed direction before council, Police Chief Brian Uhler said they were happy with the proposal, although some would like to see it go even further.

The nighttime parking prohibition, which also would extend to Upper Saddle Road except for residents, is a compromise, Uhler explained.

The city doesn’t want to limit access for legal uses, but it does want to ensure public safety.

The proposed parking limitations are a step in the right direction, said Morgan Steel, executive director of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

Hopefully limiting nighttime access will cutback on some of the behavior that could lead to larger problems that, in effect, could truly limit access to the area.

“Having this nighttime regulation is a smart move,” Steel told council.

The councilmembers present Tuesday unanimously voted to have staff bring back an ordinance that would enact the parking restrictions for the area.

One aspect that is uncertain is the appetite for nighttime use restrictions by the Forest Service. Uhler informed council that he has had positive conversations with Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Forest Supervisor Jeff Marsolais.

In a statement to the Tribune, Marsolais said the Forest Service plans to continue working with the city to find a solution.

“We are engaging with the city and internally with staff. We expect to have continued dialogue to collaborate on a solution in the coming weeks.”

Although it’s unclear if the Forest Service is interested in limiting accessible hours, Marsolais does have the ability to make that decision, according to Forest Service official.

An ordinance on the parking restrictions will come back before council for approval at a future meeting.

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