Washoe to bid on Meeks Resort
Now that the Washoe Tribe is ready to re-establish a presence in the Tahoe Basin, the area’s indigenous people hope to gain control of a popular West Shore resort that is the former site of a Washoe summer encampment.
A 20-year lease for Meeks Bay Resort expires in January, and the U.S. Forest Service will soon be sending out invitations for potential bidders on a new lease.
The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California plans to be among the bidders, said Brian Wallace, the tribe’s chairman.
“We expect to present a very viable, competitive bid, no less than any other member of the public,” Wallace said. “We are very confident that we can provide a high-quality product and serve the public and residents of the basin.”
At one time a traditional summer camp for the Washoe people, the 645-acre property was developed as a resort in 1919 by Oswald Kehlet. He sold the resort to the Macco Corp. in 1969, which planned to develop 400 condominiums and a 200-room hotel at Meeks Bay. But before Macco could pursue the plan, Penn Central, its parent company, went bankrupt and sold the property.
The Forest Service purchased the resort from William Hewlett in 1974 for $3.1 million, and has operated the resort through lease-holders as a public facility. The DeWitt Clinton Growth Corp. entered into a 20-year lease in 1978, and has operated the motel units, cabins, campground, marina and public beach since then.
On Thursday, Bob McDowell of the Forest Service said the Washoe would have to be competitive in four areas to be successful in its bid for the resort.
The selection criteria include the quality of service to the public, the applicants’ experience and qualifications for operating the resort, verification of the applicants’ financial resources and the financial return to the government.
But the lease will not be awarded simply on the basis of which bidder promises to pay the highest fee, said Linda Massey, public information officer for the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
“Money by itself is not the sole criteria,” Massey said. “Prospective bidders have to provide the service that is expected by today’s public. Meek’s Bay would continue as a public facility.”
Wallace said the Washoe Tribe has been interested in the Meeks Bay lease long before the visit by President Clinton that resulted in the Washoe gaining access to 400 acres of basin property.
“This is not a recent decision,” Wallace said. “There are many elders who survive today who were born in that area. We have talked to the guests who have stayed at Meeks Bay, and reached out to the nearby community in an effort to put our best foot forward.”
Wallace said the tribe is still working out the details of its bid, but added that Washoe individuals have an expectation of fair access to the resort if the Washoe Tribe is successful in its bid.
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