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TRPA rejects fake sod

Native plants versus sod, turtle turf versus artificial and perhaps a Japanese garden — the strip of land next to McDonalds off Highway 50 has hit South Lake Tahoe’s radar screen again.

At the City Council meeting last week, the debate over what kind of landscaping and water source will be used at the city-run Linear Park has now planted a seed with Leadership Lake Tahoe. The group — spun out of the two Tahoe-area chambers of commerce — has joined the multitude of stakeholders and interested agencies in the project.

Taking it on as a citizen with fresh eyes, Nancy Marzocco, sales director of Stanford Sierra Camp and a member of the Leadership group, walked through the park for the first time.



Marzocco said she’d like the group to collect about $25,000 in donations from fund-raisers to contribute to the park that’s split by a bike trail.

“I think it needs improvement,” she said.



Her first observation — she would like the group to earmark the donations to repairing the statue of a Washoe Tribal woman and install a plaque that describes the reason for its erection.

A second observation she made — the need for a bronze sculpture of a skier that could be used to reflect the lake’s lifestyle.

Thirdly — an inexpensive water source must be secured, she said. The city has figured a well may run $210,000 to install, while a connection to the South Tahoe Public Utility District system may cost $152,000.

Finally, in providing a mix of native plants versus sod, she may suggest keeping the natural landscaping from the bike trail to the Tahoe Meadows Homeowners Association fence and planting turf from the highway to the trail.

There was a slight mention of maybe installing artificial turf — which is used as a pilot project on the ball fields off Al Tahoe Boulevard. But as tempting as the idea sounds in terms of using no water, it has a snag.

For the time being, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency considers the turf commonly used to cover football fields as coverage that would violate land-use rules.

“From our standpoint, artificial turf is not an option because it’s purely aesthetic,” said TRPA spokeswoman Susanne Bentley who relayed a statement from Gabby Barrett, TRPA’s chief of long-range planning.

Leadership Lake Tahoe, the city, the homeowner association and TRPA aren’t the first groups to grapple with the city parcel that’s located in the redevelopment zone.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and California Tahoe Conservancy also have a stake in the landscaping, along with STPUD.

STPUD spokesman Dennis Cocking suggested the city go with its limited well source at the site rather than a system connection — which may be overkill and costly.

“The long and short of it is, there’s already a drip system there. Hooking up to our system is nuts,” Cocking said.

Instead of using overhead sprinklers, Cocking recommended the city use irrigation tubes for subsurface watering that applies to the roots.

It requires a $20,000 cost initially, but “pencils out over time” in its return on investment, he added.

Not everyone at last week’s council meeting appeared enthusiastic about changes to the land.

City Parks Commissioner Jerome Evans told the council he thinks the native vegetation serves as an excellent example of land use.

“I suppose the people in this town would like to sod Mount Tallac if they could,” he said.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com


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