Thinking environmentally |

Thinking environmentally

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

They wanted to build a solar-powered chairlift and snow park. First they had to get permits for the projects.

Students from Kingsbury Middle School pitched project ideas to planners at an educational workshop set up by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Friday.

Peter Eichar, a recreational planner at the TRPA, asked Tenika Pentana, 13, what she would do to prevent construction of the chairlift from causing erosion.

“Use snowblowers to cover up the dirt,” Pentana said.

Eichar offered a different solution. “How about planting stuff like shrubs and grass?”

Eichar made his point and Tenika and five other students in her group stopped next at the wildlife station. Jason Scott, 13, spoke up on behalf of the proposed snow park.

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He offered up to planners that the park would be put in where an older one exists, that way no trees would have to be cut down. But Coleen Shade, a TRPA long-term planner, told the group that likely the area could only be used if it were covered with a certain amount of snow.

“Well, we’ll have snowmakers,” Jason said.

Snowmaking creates noise that can scare off wildlife, so muffling requirements would probably be required as a condition of their permit, Shade said. The TRPA works with Heavenly Ski Resort so its snowmakers are quieter for the American Marten, a member of the weasel family that only comes out at night, according to Shade.

Jason and other students who visited the agency on Friday are taught by Cathy Ricioli, who offers an elective environmental education class at the middle school. Ricioli said she teaches her students about fertilizer use, erosion, air quality and other issues, but rarely is the TRPA discussed.

“I wanted to give them better awareness what the TRPA is and how special Lake Tahoe is and why we want to keep it blue,” Ricioli said.

After attending three of eight education stations, each related to the environmental goals the agency has for the basin, Tenika said she had learned that a building project at Tahoe involves more than digging and building.

“(I learned) what dirties Tahoe and what makes it clean,” Tenika said. “The kinds of animals that stay out late at night, and to be careful about what you do because it could affect different things.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at