It will be harder to find secluded places in the Lake Tahoe Basin as tourists return. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Tourists are in Tahoe even though they aren’t supposed to be based on edicts put out by various government entities. In some locations, like the city of South Lake Tahoe, they could be faced with a $1,000 fine, though that isn’t likely to happen.

No public land owner or law enforcement agency has enough employees to write tickets. Even though administrative citations can be handed out by non-sworn personnel, those fines are more difficult to collect. It’s a regulatory issue, not a criminal one. This is why education is the approach officials are taking when it comes to groups congregating without abiding by 6-foot social distancing guidelines.

Officials with the basin’s arm of the U.S. Forest Service and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency personnel were part of a webinar May 22 sponsored by the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

“We are less interested in citations and more interested in education,” Daniel Cressy with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit said. “We are not able to require the public to wear masks. Wearing masks is a sign of respect for others and the community’s health.”

All national forest trails and lands are open. That doesn’t mean all amenities are available, like bathrooms. The gate at Kiva Beach was unlocked May 22. More places will open this coming week. Campgrounds and visitors centers will be some of the last to be available. Staffing is an issue, and then ensuring workers and guests are protected in this new era of COVID-19.

The gate at Van Sickle Bi-State Park on the South Shore is open. California State Parks is having a soft opening. Porta-potties will be added to some parks. Sand Harbor in Incline Village is open, though only 300 of the 600 parking spaces will be available at any given time. While the East Shore Bike Trail is open, access to Sand Harbor from the path is not allowed. Angora Road should be open June 1.

Even when restrooms at recreation sites are open, the Forest Service is quick to point out they won’t be cleaned between every use. However, more portable toilets and handwashing stations will be placed at day use and beach locations.

Devin Middlebrook with the TRPA said for the past two years recreation managers, land managers and nonprofits have been convening to work on ways to improve the user experience while protecting the environment. This collaboration, he said, has worked well during this crisis. Working to solve issues at hot spots (aka congested areas) can include providing temporary bathroom facilities and more garbage cans, or more frequent trash collection.

Middlebrook said reservation systems and improved parking had been talked about before the pandemic and might be able to be implemented sooner to test these ideas. No further details were provided.

When it comes to boats, to start with watercraft with the Tahoe-only sticker will be allowed. Most launch sites should be open by June 1. Inspections are still suspended, with no date revealed for when that will change. Some marinas have boats for rent.

Cressy stressed the only way the recreation experience is going to be successful is if “we all come together.” He said to plan ahead, expect reduced services, respect others, stay home if you are sick, leave places better than you found them, and that it’s a good idea to wear a mask.


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