Joanne S. Marchetta
We’ve finally settled into a spectacular Tahoe summer. Like a shooting star, summer is fleeting, with the Fourth of July already in our review mirror. With all the outdoor recreation that summer affords us here at Lake Tahoe, here’s one more experience worth noting.
If you’re looking for a stunningly beautiful bike ride or a perfect pathway on which to take a walk, the new East Shore Tahoe Trail is unparalleled. Dignitaries recently gathered to celebrate the trail’s grand opening at the end of June. The path is a three-mile link between the south end of Incline Village and Sand Harbor.
When first considered, a lot of folks said this trail would be impossible to build. But we know from experience that epic collaboration, hard work, and everyone rowing in the same direction are the ingredients needed to accomplish the seemingly impossible.
While we proved the task was far from impossible, it was a decidedly costly endeavor. The budget on the project topped out at more than $40 million. Funding came from a variety of sources; mostly state and federal monies were used to construct the trail. But it was individual citizens who opened the doors for that funding. Five hundred and fifty individual donors brought more than $1 million to the table. Kudos to The Tahoe Fund for its collaboration in making the private sector piece of the puzzle come to life.
In the end, we have an incredible new recreation experience for locals and visitors to enjoy — there are 17 vista points along the public path hovering above some of the most spectacular shorelines at Tahoe. Eleven new access points provide pathways to iconic beaches. Many of those smaller trails were collaboratively constructed using sweat equity from volunteers. Five modern bathrooms and 91 new parking spaces beside the Tunnel Creek Café helped to complete the project.
Granite Construction deserves praise for its work in building this masterpiece. The team tackled a challenging project and made difficult cantilevered trail segments look relatively easy. It’s truly an incredible piece of engineering, from vision and planning to design and construction, it’s now a part of Tahoe that recreationists will enjoy for generations to come. It also provides a much safer way for pedestrians and bikers to travel to and from Sand Harbor.
The drive along State Route 28 during the peak of summer is a chaotic scene and often harrowing mix of cars and pedestrians on a narrow two-lane roadway. One of the primary goals of this project is to dissuade drivers from parking dangerously on the shoulders of State Route 28. Getting the parking plan right is one of the critical goals and work already underway on parking management will continue as the trail evolves.
The East Shore Trail has energized our imaginations. And we continue to dream big. This section of trail is just one in the larger plan for a trail around Lake Tahoe’s shore. Planning has already begun to design and build the next adjacent eight-mile section of multiuse pathway connecting Sand Harbor to Spooner Summit, an addition that would connect nearly 11 miles of spectacular shoreline between Incline Village and Spooner Summit to recreationists who want to experience the east shore without a car.
The round the lake trail system is part of a larger strategy to give people options to get to desired destinations without a car. In 2013, as a component of the Highway 28 Corridor Management Plan, it was estimated that 2.6 million vehicles a year drive on Highway 28 between Incline Village and Highway 50. More than a million of those vehicles belonged to visitors. And the number of people parking dangerously along the narrow shoulders of the road continues to grow.
By providing locals and visitors with safe and ample parking alternatives, we hope to get people out into nature. We can also alleviate the dangers posed by vehicles parking on the edge of the road itself. Designated as a National Scenic Byway, Highway 28 is far from scenic when summer crowds descend on the roadway. Let’s give that designation meaning by making the drive a pleasure for sightseers to experience, rather than a ride that frays the senses.
Again, some people say this too will be an impossible task. But we know better. We know it will take lots of hard work and a willingness to find common ground to bring the complete East Shore Trail to the finish line. But it’s not impossible. We know that by working together collaboratively, across multiple federal, state, and local jurisdictions, and with the help of the private sector, that we can dream the impossible dreams. And we can turn those dreams into reality.
Joanne S. Marchetta is the Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency