Notes from Reno-Tahoe
Record reporter Jay Hamburger recently returned from a five-day trip to the Reno and Lake Tahoe region as part of City Hall’s annual visit to other resort communities in the West.
Cleaning Lake Tahoe
With Lake Tahoe being one of America’s most famous bodies of water and a popular tourist spot, officials in the region want to ensure that the lake remains clean.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, an organization that has jurisdiction in the area, touts what is known as an ‘Environmental Improvement Program,’ which is meant to ensure "the future of Lake Tahoe for the enjoyment of generations to come," according to material published by the agency.
A group from Park City recently learned about efforts to protect Lake Tahoe, which straddles the Nevada-California state line, during a trip there.
According to the agency, advances have been made in improving the watershed and in air quality. Fire dangers have been lessened, the agency says. Some of the steps include restoring more than 367 acres of what the agency describes as "sensitive stream zones," clearing fuels and other fire hazards from about 19,000 acres of land and reducing emissions by using transit and vehicles using cleaner-burning fuel, according to the agency.
"The Lake Tahoe Basin’s extraordinary mountain beauty is a national treasure," material from the agency says, noting that, because of development, the lake loses one foot annually of water clarity. The loss started in the 1960s, according to the agency.
The clarity of the water keeps people there with an "eye on the prize," Julie Regan, a spokesperson for the agency, told the Park City contingent.
She acknowledged, though, that there have been bad feelings about the agency stretching for years.
In August, scientists at the University of California at Davis reported that the lake’s clarity reached a depth of 72.4 feet in 2005, about the same as the previous five years, according to a release from the university’s Tahoe Environmental Research Center.
In 1968, when the measurements started, clarity was at 102.4 feet, the release says.
The lake is 1,645 feet deep, the second deepest in the U.S. and No. 10 in the world, the agency says.
Leaders in Lake Tahoe see the clarity of water as a prime marketing tool.
During a final session, some of the people from the Park City group suggested that the local environment needs the same level of protection that Lake Tahoe receives in Nevada and California.
At the end of the trip, after hearing about some affordable-housing issues in the other communities, it was suggested that the topic be handled on a regional basis in Park City and the surrounding area.
Some of the Parkites on the trip said that a consortium of governments, including Park City, Summit County, Wasatch County and other cities, should handle the topic cooperatively.
Currently, there is not widespread coordination between the different governments on the issue although officials sometimes discuss affordable housing.
At the end of the trip, it was mentioned that affordable housing in the Park City area should be incorporated into neighborhoods, not be self-contained developments.
The Line Condominiums, on Deer Valley Drive, which is one of the most ambitious affordable-housing projects in recent years, was built in a neighborhood but others are not situated as centrally to neighbors.
The people on the trip said perhaps land could be acquired on the outskirts of Park City to build affordable housing.
City Hall sees itself as a champion of affordable housing, arguing that Park City will be better off if people of varying incomes can afford to live locally. Park City’s resort-driven real estate market is difficult to afford for much of the city’s workforce.
Truckee’s rollicking past
Truckee, Calif., a burgeoning resort city in the mountains close to the Lake Tahoe-area ski mountains, in the olden days was a rollicking city similar to the Park City of yesteryear, as described by a volunteer at the Truckee-Donner Historical Society.
During a walking tour of Truckee’s downtown, Chelsea Walterscheid said the community once had gambling and prostitutes but cleaned up toward the middle of the 20th century.
She said that the community especially cast out the vices as the 1960 Winter Olympics approached. The Games that year were held in nearby Squaw Valley. She said that lawmen came through as the Olympics neared.
Even before the Games, though, Truckee could show its wholesome side, she said.
"We were very squeaky clean at certain times (when) we needed to be," she said.
Truckee was a lumber and railroad town through most of its history but started to change in the 1980s. The railroad tracks remain in use, though, and several trains rumbled by during the tour, blowing their horns.
"All day long, all night," Walterscheid said, describing how frequently the trains, both passenger and freight, travel through Truckee.
Officials in Truckee said growth in the city is pegged at between 2 and 2.5 percent annually. They expect that 300 people will move to the city each year over the next decade and said that 275 new houses are built each year.
Park City seemed to resemble Truckee, with similarities including a mountain setting, growth and a colorful past.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.