By Joanne S. Marchetta

We are ready for some glad tidings this holiday season. While we look forward to the spirit of generosity and warmth the season brings, many are also hoping the New Year will deliver a meaningful reset. Propelling ourselves forward and out of crisis will require fortitude and drive. The pending vaccine is a bright spot on the horizon, but there are other positive indicators for better days to come.

The pandemic has heightened our awareness of housing insecurities and shortages here and around the nation. Despite working from home most of this year, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has made real progress in affordable and workforce housing. The Tahoe Living Housing Initiative is creating incentives for small homes and accessory dwelling units, or home apartments, while also bringing forward local and regional plan amendments around density and parking standards to improve housing options and availability.

We were also able to partner with the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless to bring a crucial Project Homekey grant to South Shore that the coalition is using to purchase and convert three motels to safe housing for people living in our communities without shelter.

Another bright spot is the significant update TRPA is bringing forward to the Regional Transportation Plan. The 25-year plan will help achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of both states and alleviate traffic congestion in Tahoe’s highest used recreation corridors. And new coalitions are forming around a bi-state transportation consultation group working to prioritize projects and identify sustainable sources of funding to build them.

2021 will also bring us closer to controlling aquatic invasive weed populations from the Tahoe Keys to Crystal Bay that are harming the lake. A coordinated test project led by Tahoe Keys property owners could sample multiple methods in targeted areas of the Keys lagoons. The test project is bringing a committed coalition together to combat the worst infestation in the lake while carefully piloting the best methods available to control weeds around the entire lake.

Around sustainable recreation and visitation, new partnerships have emerged between recreation land managers, environmental educators, and destination marketing organizations who know visitors and the most effective ways to communicate with them. This year, trash, crowding, mask-wearing, and fire prevention brought these groups together in a profound way. Already this winter, the recreation working group is getting critical backcountry safety information from non-profits, athletes, and land managers out to the broadest audience of residents and visitors possible. With these new partnerships, destination marketing at Lake Tahoe could begin shifting toward destination management, a transition taking place in other resort communities around the world that unifies visitor management with marketing.

Most importantly, we cannot forget the slow and silent crisis happening every day brought on by climate change. Going forward, TRPA is confronting climate change and doubling down on greenhouse gas emission reductions. We have already begun bringing the best available science to bear on strategies to address the threats rising temperatures pose to forest health, water quality, invasive species, and biodiversity in the region. Even in addressing the planet’s greatest threat, there is hope.

To be sure, the arrival of a vaccine is our greatest hope of ending the pandemic. Yet we are in the midst of a near vertical climb in COVID cases with most hospitals at or near capacity. For now, we need to be cautiously optimistic and maintain the life-saving health practices that have by now become ritual. One lesson given to us by the virus is that we sometimes need to create our own bright spots. I encourage you to commit acts of kindness, spread tolerance, accept change, or bury a hatchet; these are not only the hallmarks of the season, these are habits we will need to create a fresh start and to continue bringing light to the darkness.

Wishing you a joyous, safe holiday and much brightness in the New Year.

— Joanne S. Marchetta is Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency