Public passionate about land at Tahoe |

Public passionate about land at Tahoe

Amanda Fehd

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Community members gather for a Lake Tahoe planning workshop on Thursday night.

Public transportation, parking, access to recreation, and restoration were hot topics at a meeting Wednesday on the future of public lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Community members and government employees packed into the room at the U.S. Forest Service office in South Lake Tahoe and worked with a consultant to hash out opinions on the direction they’d like to see Tahoe’s public lands take.

The public owns 88 percent of land at Tahoe, including landmarks like Emerald Bay, Mount Tallac, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Desolation Wilderness and Fallen Leaf Lake.

By the year 2020, it’s estimated there will be 3.2 million more people living within four hours of Lake Tahoe.

Many argued this population increase alone will exacerbate traffic, access and resource-protection problems that already exist here.

The meeting was one of several in a series of community workshops throughout the basin in a process called place-based planning.

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Another meeting Thursday night at Lake Tahoe Community College was expected to focus on city and county lands at the South Shore. Read Monday’s edition of the Tahoe Daily Tribune to find out more.

The next set of place-based meetings will be at the end of May and the sessions are open to all.

The workshops are intended to include each community around the lake in the sometimes cumbersome Pathway 2007 process, which will likely produce a new 20-year plan for the basins four most influential agencies: the Forest Service, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Lahontan Water Board and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

At this stage, Pathway is not slated to be completed until at least 2008.

Berkeley-based planning consultant Bruce Race said Wednesday night he’s starting to see recurring themes among all communities at the lake, from Kings Beach to South Shore.

“I’m starting to see an emerging pattern in terms of what we value in the basin,” he told the group.

There were concerns that recreation in Tahoe is being degraded by overcapacity, safety and traffic issues, and that overuse is impacting the resources and scenery many find inspiring.

Proposed solutions included increasing public transportation, bike trails and parking, or plowing parking lots now closed during winter months because of snow.

Others pushed increasing access to publicly owned beaches and mountain trails, and restoring meadows and wildlife habitat.

Some suggested restoring the Lake Tahoe Airport to a meadow, others suggested using it as a transportation and parking hub to decrease traffic in other areas of South Shore.

None of the ideas were new to Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

“I see the same biases surfacing,” Wallace said of the airport debate. The airport is city land. He saw potential for finding consensus on public transportation issues, “But to ignore the airport (as a way to reduce cars) doesn’t make sense.”

The crowd included representatives of conservation groups, snowmobiling associations, chambers of commerce, ski resorts and the public at large.

Some asked whether Caltrans, Nevada Department of Transportation and law enforcement should have been present, given the passions about parking and access issues.