Spooner Lake and Backcountry Visitor Center is open as of Nov. 17. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While the natural beauty of the 13,000 acre Spooner Lake backcountry is captivating in all seasons, a man-made structure has actually enhanced what this Nevada oasis has to offer.

On Nov. 17 the $8 million visitors center and amphitheater was unveiled.

“Our focus is on environmental education and sustainable recreation,” Bob Mergell, administrator for Nevada State Parks, told the assembled crowd.

The amphitheater from which he was speaking is expected to be the center of outdoor programs. Four rows of granite benches, so to speak, form a semi-circle facing the podium. Each is broken into sections for ease of seating, and coming and going.

Philanthropist Linda Pascotto, left, with Amy Berry of the Tahoe Fund. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mergell acknowledged a project of this size is a group effort, which he pointed out included prison inmates building all the cabinetry inside

The building houses a shop to buy souvenirs, resource guides and the opportunity to talk to someone to obtain more information. Also onsite are indoor rooms for classes or meetings, as well as a warming hut. What might excite many recreationists are the nice restrooms.

Donors are recognized on these metal bears. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With 150,000 visitors to Spooner Lake each year using the 60 miles of trails, the built infrastructure was beyond outdated. Limited parking and a few port-a-potties are all that greeted people. What was there was 35 years old. Even the old kiosk to pay one’s entrance fee looked like a dilapidated hut.

Prior to the festivities, Mergell in an interview said planning for phase three of the project is under way.

“We are going to put in a kayak launch to make the lake more usable,” he said. A fishing platform is also in the works. A start and end date can’t be set until designs, permitting, and funding are secured.

It’s possible to fish at this late that sits at 6,983 feet, but it’s hard to get on the lake unless it’s frozen. That’s when ice skaters show off their skills. It’s about 23 feet deep.

Bob Mergell with Nevada State Parks talks about the Spooner project on Nov. 17. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A price tag for this next phase has not been set, but one of the key donors was at the dedication.

Linda Pascotto, who has a house nearby, has been re-creating in the area since her parents bought a place at Lake Tahoe in the 1970s. Later she and her husband bought their own place.

Pascotto is a philanthropist who has donated to many causes in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Haldan Art Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College is in honor of her parents, Jim and Ethel May Haldan.

The amphitheater will be the site of outdoor education at Spooner. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

She is one of seven donors to the Tahoe Fund that accounts for that nonprofit’s $300,000 contribution to the current Spooner project. Pascotto and the others have metal bears scattered near the amphitheater with their names on them as a sign of thanks.

Pascotto’s next contribution of $250,000 is for phase three, which she wants to pay for the wildlife viewing platform at Spooner Lake.

“My dad was into wildlife,” she explained after all the presentations were over. “I wanted to do something for my parents.” After all, they are the ones who introduced her to the Spooner Lake area.

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