KINGS BEACH, Calif. — The message from community members is clear — they want Kings Beach State Recreation Area to remain under local control.
“We urgently request that you reconsider the management of the Kings Beach Recreation Area remain under the excellent management of the NTPUD (North Tahoe Public Utility District),” said Beth Moxley, a Kings Beach business owner, at Thursday’s town hall meeting hosted by state Sen. Ted Gaines and Assemblyman Brian Dahle. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It was announced last week California State Parks and the California Tahoe Conservancy had agreed to co-manage the state parks-owned rec area, effective Nov. 1.
State parks will perform day-to-day operations there and at some conservancy-owned properties, with the conservancy funding a portion of work.
“We’ll be developing a transition plan with parks and the community over the next couple of months to make sure the transition is as seamless as possible and that there is no loss in services,” said Patrick Wright, executive director of the conservancy, who attended the meeting along with NTPUD and state parks officials.
Jess Cooper, northern division chief for state parks, said the rec area would remain open year-round.
But whether that could be permanently ensured was an issue brought forth by the public, with more than 100 people attending the meeting at the North Tahoe Event Center.
“The key concern that we have is the always tenuous nature of state-level funding, and what may be great this year might become very difficult to achieve next year,” said John Falk, legislative advocate for Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. “We need the stability that local control would afford us.”
Since December 1978, NTPUD has managed the area, keeping the facility and its parking lot open year-round. NTPUD officials fear that if the area experiences even a seasonal closure, it would have negative impacts to Kings Beach, including a potential decrease in travel and loss of jobs and businesses.
“The property in its entirety is important to this community,” Falk said. “… We feel confident that the PUD has exercised great transparency, accountability, responsiveness and access to leadership.”
The public also questioned whether state parks can ensure that same level of service.
“I like local control and to the degree that we can keep things in the locals’ hands, where there’s more accountability because you’re going to see that guy or gal at the local grocery store, if you don’t have your act together,” Gaines said.
To ensure local control and that the area remains open year-round, Gaines and Dahle recently introduced California Senate Bill 832, which the NTPUD supports.
“It will guarantee the beach will be open all year and be able to serve visitors, while at the same time being synergistic to the community’s needs,” said NTPUD General Manager Paul Schultz. “No state funding or dependence on future state budgets is required.”
For years, NTPUD has operated the rec area on a month-to-month basis, while it and state parks tried to agree on a long-term management agreement, with the original one expiring in December 2008.
Issues encountered during negotiations include term length and who will fund rec area improvements, Schultz said.
The rec area has an estimated $600,000 in ADA improvements, not including $800,000 in deferred maintenance, according to past reports.
“... We (state parks and the conservancy) felt that we would be in a better position to continuing working on improvements if we also assumed management and responsibility because after all the investments we might make in the park depends at least in part — not entirely, but at least in part — on how much revenue we’re raising from parking and from concessions,” Wright explained.
But people remain wary of this move.
“I’m just amazed that all of a sudden they want to come in,” said Regina Straver, a Kings Beach resident. “(It’s) boom, we’re here, we’re going to take this thing over, and we’re going to do a fine job when they haven’t done it (before). ... I’m sorry, but I trust our PUD.”
Moving forward, Gaines said he would like to see all parties agree on a mutual agreement on future management and operations.
NTPUD plans to reach out to state parks and the conservancy this week in an effort to re-engage negotiations, Schultz said Monday.
“I just hope that we can work something out,” said Lane Lewis, NTPUD board president, at Thursday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, NTPUD continues to support SB 832, which is waiting go before the Natural Resources and Water Committee, which sees bills related to conservation and management of public resources, including parks.
“Whatever happens as we move forward, we hope it’s the best thing for the park properties and the community,” Cooper said.