Travel writers come to town |

Travel writers come to town

Susan Wood
Provided to the Tahoe Daily Tribune Public relations specialist Phil Weidinger introduces panelists at the Society of American Travel Writers Freelance Council meeting. They are, from left: LTVA Executive Director Bill Chernock; Heavenly Vice President of Planning Andrew Strain; BlueGo board Chairman Mike Bradford; South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tom Davis; League to Save Lake Tahoe Program Director Jon-Paul Harries; TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub; and attorney Lew Feldman.

The Lake Tahoe environment and economy create a wealth of opportunity for visitors and locals.

That was the message Tuesday to the approximately 30 travel writers who turned out for the Society of American Travel Writers Freelance Council meeting at Harveys Resort Casino, as they listened to a panel of six community leaders.

The writers, who arrived Monday, received a crash course in the evolution of a town seeking an identity, traffic solutions, lake clarity, enhanced beauty and a harmonious playground.

The panel, moderated by attorney Dennis Crabb, brought candid and varying perspectives to a long-standing debate about the future of tourism economics in Lake Tahoe.

The panelists – who referred to themselves as the “usual suspects” involved in grass-roots efforts – reviewed the challenges and attributes of doing business where the environment is the key to an industry that supports 80 percent of the local economy.

From Lew Feldman, an attorney representing the Park Avenue redevelopment partners near Stateline, to Bill Chernock, the executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, most agreed the task of progress doesn’t come easy.

Chernock said it was “difficult to tell the story” because Tahoe suffers from “an embarrassment of riches.” He took the group through a quick history of advertising with the lake’s largest tourism agency, which touts the area’s most distinctive advantage – the lake.

“The difficulty that LTVA faces is doing justice to the basin with a message that’s all encompassing,” Chernock said.

There are other difficulties such as gridlock on area roads.

“We asked visitors what they like the least about Tahoe. We found that year after year they said traffic. Traffic is a good example in what we need for business and what we need for the environment. They come together,” said Mike Bradford, who runs Lakeside Inn and Casino and serves as chairman of the BlueGo transit system. The system, adopting the name from the Blue World advertising campaign, was designed to create a coordinated transit system that would reduce miles traveled around the 72-mile basin.

“What’s the basin? You guys keep referring to the basin,” travel writer Susan Wagner piped in during the question-and-answer session.

John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, quickly responded that it’s the watershed of the lake. Others have characterized it as the ring of mountains encircling the lake.

In the simplest of terms, Singlaub admitted to the curious crowd that the highly regulated basin, which his agency is assigned to protect, faces many challenges. It’s a fine line Singlaub walks every day.

He wants the agency out of the vacation home rental business and sign ordinance regulation. He plans to make the TRPA’s business the permitting process and lake clarity – first and foremost.

“Everybody has a Tahoe story of how their permit was held up. We need to streamline that. We’re working on it,” he said, offering hope to a building community seeking to make improvements.

But at what point is the line in the sand drawn?

Jon-Paul Harries of the League to Save Lake Tahoe told the group the area falls short in protecting the lake.

“We don’t see significant progress in threshold attainment,” he said, referring to the nine thresholds used to measure lake clarity.

At the same time, Harries said he’s pleased with the level of cooperation, which he views as the lake’s biggest asset.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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