Storms take toll on recreational facilities |

Storms take toll on recreational facilities

Patrick McCartney

As the days lengthen, a Tahoe resident’s fancy often turns to camping and other outdoor recreation.

This year, despite severe winter flooding that exacted a toll on many facilities, most campgrounds and other facilities will open on schedule by Memorial Weekend.

A notable exception is the Taylor Creek Stream Profile Chamber, where a $550,000 refurbishment that includes new glass walls, exhibits and a mural, will in all likelihood not be ready by Memorial Weekend, said Mike St. Michel, the visitor center director.

Crews are still removing debris from the center’s Rainbow Trail, a self-guided walk through the Taylor Creek Meadow, that occurred when the usually quiet creek leapt its banks and flooded the meadow.

St. Michel said he hopes the popular facility will reopen by mid-June.

Elsewhere in the Tahoe Basin, most campgrounds withstood the New Year’s Day flooding with little or no damage, said officials with California State Parks and the company that operates campgrounds for the Forest Service.

“We really fared quite well,” said Elizabeth Tattersall of California Land Management, which has operated the Forest Service campgrounds in the Tahoe Basin since 1985. While the fees for stays at the Forest Service campgrounds are unchanged this year, a $3 parking fee will be charged at the Eagle Falls parking lot beginning on May 22, just before Memorial Weekend.

And on May 1, the Forest Service will initiate its fees for overnight stays in Desolation Wilderness, one of a hundred federally managed areas in the country to require a fee this year for the first time.

In addition to a $5 reservation fee, backpackers will be asked to pay $5 a person for a one-night stay, and $10 a person for a stay of two nights or more. The fee does not apply to anyone under 13. Season passes are available for $30.

But with spring still weeks away in the high country, the Forest Service is unsure how much damage the winter flooding caused to wilderness trails, said Don Lane, a Forest Service recreation specialist.

“As the snow melts, we’ll see what kind of shape the trail system is in,” Lane said.”The concern right now is that there was a lot of damage caused by the Christmas storms. The damage of the Eagle Falls Bridge is, I’m afraid, symptomatic of what we’ll find as more snow melts.”

Campgrounds in the California State Park system survived the winter flooding pretty much unscathed, said Ted Reinhardt, chief ranger for the sprawling Sierra District. But, while the Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park and Vikingsholm at Emerald Bay were undamaged, waves severely damaged the pier at Sugar Pine Point, the park’s most popular attraction, Reinhardt said.

“Our hope will be to open the pier by the summer,” he added.

And this year, the park system has eliminated the $2 discount for mid-week camping, with the rates the same for every night of the week at park campgrounds, he said.

Campgrounds on the Nevada side of the basin generally fared better than those on the California side, where flooding was greater.

But facilities in Alpine County were hit hard, with access to some popular sites still limited because of damage to State Route 4 east of Ebbets Pass and State Route 88.

“Hundreds of people will be turned away from the East Fork of the Carson River,” said Steve Hale, a natural resources specialist with the Forest Service’s Carson Ranger District.

The California Department of Transportation expects to reopen both routes by early May, re-establishing access to two campgrounds and three major trailheads in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.

Hale pointed out a silver lining to one problem caused by the flooding. With the water system clobbered at the Markleeville campground, the Forest Service will charge campers half of the regular $8 fee until the water supply is restored.

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