Solution for beach parking problem |

Solution for beach parking problem

When Lakeview Sports Manager Brandon Whitehurst witnessed a motorist use his car as a battering ram to get out of a tight parking spot July 4, he saw the need for more parking at the El Dorado Beach area.

“This place gets slammed (with users) in the summer,” Whitehurst said, launching his own boat from a truck Wednesday. Whitehurst runs a Jet Ski, paddleboat and kayak rental operation on one section of the popular boat launching area.

The busy place, estimated to launch an average 5,000 boats a year, is now in line for overdue improvements. The California Boating and Waterways Commission granted $449,000 to the city of South Lake Tahoe two weeks ago.

The commission toured the site Sept. 18, then awarded the city the funds at its meeting in Tahoe the following day.

The money — with the majority of it going to fund a parking lot — is expected to arrive by the end of the year, commission spokesman David Johnson reported.

“This area is one of the first things people see when they come into Lake Tahoe,” Johnson said.

The city plans to put out a second 25-foot floating dock where a receding shoreline shows how low the lake level is. It was measured Wednesday at 6,223.48 — a half foot above the natural rim.

The level forced the city to close the boat ramp, along with other launching areas around Lake Tahoe.

Whitehurst said Lakeview Sports anticipated the lake would be too shallow to accommodate their watercraft rental operation from the beach. They put out a floating dock early in the summer season.

“We built that thing before we even starting renting the Jet Skis this summer,” Whitehurst said.

To accommodate winter use in a 56-acre area considered to be the heart of South Lake Tahoe by the city, the parks department also intends to upgrade the restroom facilities, parks Superintendent Steve Weiss said. The restroom will receive fixtures, a heater, a sprucing up of its exterior and American with Disabilities Act compliant facilities such as the doorways.

“That will eat up $60,000 pretty quickly,” Weiss said.

As part of the Harrison Avenue business plan, the city will also expand the parking area by another 40 to 50 spaces on a lot where the Timber Lodge once sat and put in new lights. The 30 spaces that now exist force motorists to spill over into spots in front of businesses along the Harrison Avenue corridor.

Surveyors were on site at the future parking lot at Merced and Harrison avenues Wednesday.

Weiss plans on going out to bid this winter and starting construction in May. The parking lot expansion should be completed by August.

The facilities, including the pier and restroom, were built in 1975 through a previous state Boating and Waterways grant.

In May 2001, the city made a case that it expects the proposed improvements will beef up launches by 2,000 boats.

Weiss said the extra parking lot is needed to accommodate boaters driving in. Some motorists fear their boats with high masts will catch on power lines on streets that border Lakeview Avenue.

A convoluted mix of parking now exists on Harrison to accommodate beach and boat ramp users.

The boat launching improvements are part of a bigger vision, involving a bicycle path connection between El Dorado Beach and Los Angeles Avenue. Other plans along the Harrison Avenue corridor include a one-way lane and a parking lot on a California Tahoe Conservancy parcel between the Tahoe Tribune and the Sno-Flake Drive-In.

The city just completed the repair of a retaining wall above El Dorado Beach.

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