Tahoe resident spearheads drive to strengthen area’s geotourism

Jennie Tezak
Provided to the TribuneThe Tahoe Steamer is part of the lake's history.

An article in the September issue of National Geographic concludes that Lake Tahoe must focus more on its history, heritage and culture to stand out more among tourist destinations.

Now, an Incline Village woman is working to put that idea into action.

In 2004, Lake Tahoe received a below-average rating in a National Geographic magazine survey called “Places Rated.” In the survey, 115 top destinations in the world were rated based on their geotourism, or tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place. The panel of experts that judge the area based their findings on six criteria: environment, heritage, culture, aesthetics and the well-being of local residents.

Lake Tahoe scored a 60 out of 100, or a “D,” in the survey.

Then in July or August of this year, Jonathan B. Tourtellot, director of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, spent a short time in South Lake Tahoe investigating the area.

In September, Tourtellot wrote an article entitled “It’s the Lake, Stupid,” describing Tahoe’s history.

“My take is that there are plenty of issues, but everyone is on top of it,” Tourtellot said. “What seems to be missing is more texture of what the place is all about.”

After Tourtellot met Incline Village resident Jacquie Chandler at a conference, Chandler became interested in forming a committee to help the area promote its geotourism. Tourtellot encouraged the idea also, and asked Chandler to be the liaison.

Chandler will discuss her progress at a Tahoe Area Sierra Club meeting tonight in Zephyr Cove.

As the GeoTourism Lake Tahoe liaison, Chandler will share National Geographic’s chartered course for making preservation profitable, explain the National Geographic geotourism approach and how the Tahoe basin can leverage its assets without compromising its integrity, according to a news release from the Tahoe Area Sierra Club.

“Tahoe scored below the Dead Sea,” Chandler said. “The reason we scored badly is because geotourism places are not obvious to tourists.”

Chandler said people must be more connected with Tahoe and focus on bringing tourism to new heights.

“We are moving in the direction of geotourism activities being focused on a higher personal experience with the place,” Chandler said. “We are interested in embracing tourism in the 21st century.”

Tourtellot said Chandler is the right person to lead the area’s transition to geotourism.

“I think Jacquie has the right idea about getting people thinking about the special aspects of Tahoe beyond recreation,” he said. “The challenge for any place is what makes us different. The history is pretty well-buried, and there are economic issues, too. The area is getting too rich for its own good. Diversity is being lost because the cost of living is too high.”

The Tahoe Area Sierra Club meets from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Tahoe Douglas Fire Station classroom at 193 Elks Point Road in Zephyr Cove. For more information, call Kay Edwards at (775) 588-4565.

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