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Solutions sought to an overcrowded Fourth

Sally J. Taylor

Fourth of July is an example of an event so successful, crowds overwhelm resources.

That’s especially true along Lakeshore Boulevard near Stateline.

Members of the Lakeside Park Association, who live in the neighborhood and own the Lakeside Park Beach, met on Wednesday with city and safety officials to search for solutions.

“I would hate to think anyone thinks we’re unhappy with the fireworks. We want to see it grow,” said Ed McCarthy, president of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association, which has many members in the area. “The Lakeside Park Association by itself can’t handle the masses of people that gather.”

Last year, 8,000 to 10,000 people crowded onto the private beach and beach-front road near Stateline to watch the fireworks. In an effort to get the best view, they trampled thousands of dollars of landscape and climbed onto roofs.

Once the beach gates closed at 7 p.m. due to overcrowding, about 60 to 70 percent of the crowd was left on the street, locked out of the only nearby public bathrooms. Many relieved themselves on walls and even inner hallways of nearby motels.

“How can we do better crowd control without losing control?” McCarthy asked.

The plea carried an extra measure of urgency since this year, the situation could be worse.

The Fourth of July lands on a Friday. High water continues to reduce the size of the beach. And the popular Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championship overlaps the same weekend.

Solutions proposed Wednesday included closing off parking, bringing in portable toilets and hiring more security.

Most require funds the 135-member association is hard-pressed to come up with.

In 1996, 10 security officers cost the association $4,600 – equal to an entire year’s revenue, according to Beach Manager Dave Usher.

“The price is becoming overwhelming,” he said.

This year could cost more. Two to four additional officers are needed, said Stan Lamb, who coordinates the off-duty police officers hired for the private security force on the beach. Competition for security from the Celebrity Golf Championship could increase the price, he said.

No additional city police are available to patrol the area.

“Timber Cove, El Dorado, Reagan, Tahoe Keys, it’s all gridlocked,” said South Lake Tahoe Police Chief David Solaro. “It’s a mountain of people and just no place to put them. We have no more resources.”

The shortage of toilets is easy to solve, but not how to pay for them. Although Sani-hut could provide portable toilets at cost for $65 each, according to representative Leni Dickinson, several dozen are needed.

More trash cans should also be provided.

“Come up with the numbers and I volunteer to go out hat in hand,” said association member Tom Sweeney, owner of Royal Valhalla Motor Lodge.

City Manager Kerry Miller suggested that funds, in small amounts, could probably be found from various business and city organizations.

“With that many people involved, (there would be) no significant cost burden for only one,” he said.

Steve Teshara, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Association, refrained from committing financial help without direction from the gaming board but did offer to discuss the problems, including casino personnel referring guests to the area to watch the fireworks.

“We’re sensitive to the issues, we share them,” he said.

The association will meet again to formulate specific plans on June 11 at 10 a.m. at the Viking Lodge.


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