TRPA, Backcountry Skiers, Working To Address Winter Recreation Access

Lake Tahoe, Stateline, NV – The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, El Dorado County, and members of Tahoe Backcountry Alliance announced today they are partnering to create a coalition of stakeholders to maintain and enhance public access for winter backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

“We’re optimistic about this opportunity to work together to get back some of the access that we have lost in the past, and work to enhance access in the future. Let’s together reclaim and preserve backcountry access in the Tahoe Basin,” said Mike Schwartz and Todd Offenbacher, of Tahoe Backcountry Alliance.

As a result of this new partnership, the public meeting the evening of October 23 has been postponed. Instead, nearly a dozen agencies are convening this week to begin a comprehensive conversation about roadside access to some of Tahoe’s more important backcountry skiing locations.

“We have heard the concerns of the backcountry community and are committed to addressing them through this process,” said El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel, who is also a member of TRPA’s Governing Board.

Ringed by prominent mountains, extensive public lands, and wilderness areas, Tahoe offers world-class backcountry skiing. But while the sport has been growing in popularity, parking and access to popular peaks have become increasingly challenging.

That issue surfaced this month when a Caltrans project to reduce soil erosion and stormwater pollution on seven miles of State Route 89 between Emerald Bay and Meeks Bay displaced some on- and off-road parking used by the backcountry skiing community to access popular peaks in the area.

To make up for that lost parking, TRPA and Caltrans approved a project revision to install a 25-by-180-foot paved pullout just south of D.L. Bliss State Park, and California State Parks offered to provide plowed winter parking at the D.L. Bliss State Park Visitor Center.

Reducing stormwater pollution remains a top priority because fine sediment pollution from roads and developed areas is a key contributor to declines in Lake Tahoe’s famed water clarity. But TRPA and backcountry skiers partnering in this initiative believe that those measures can be better balanced with needs for improved winter recreation access.

“Improving public recreation opportunities and recreation access are top goals for TRPA, and we feel we can play a vital role in working with the backcountry ski community and bringing the right people and agencies together to tackle this issue. Improved recreation access, parking, safety, and transit service are key focus areas in the comprehensive plans that we are putting together to improve all of our highway corridors at Lake Tahoe,” said Joanne Marchetta, Executive Director at TRPA.

TRPA will also review upcoming water quality improvement projects around Emerald Bay that Caltrans has already received permits for to ensure that maintaining or enhancing parking areas for backcountry access is considered in those highway plans.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment. For additional information, contact Tom Lotshaw, Public Information Officer, at 775-589-5278.

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