Tahoe locals, visitors enjoy free Discover Nevada State Parks Day
June 16, 2016
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — "It's free!" a friendly girl at the Sand Harbor State Park entrance says to me on this particular Saturday morning.
As an effort to encourage all Nevadans to get outdoors, the state allowed complimentary access to all 23 Nevada State Parks on June 11 — including Sand Harbor in near Incline Village.
To coincide with Discover Nevada State Parks Day, the organizers of Big Blue Adventure hosted the Thunderbird Paddling Festival — the combination of SUP, swimming and beach running. The 8 a.m. 2.4-mile open water swim wetsuit division had 13 competitors who swam out to the right of the beach and raced back in.
Los Altos, Calif., resident Bill Wang took first place in that division, but struggled a bit in the cold water even with a wetsuit on.
"The altitude was hard and the water was cold, but manageable," Wang said. "I hung on to the kayak for two minutes."
Wang says he swims at the Fremont Hills Masters and competes in triathlons with Kain Performance. But as an open water swimmer, usually the water is murky and you can't see anything.
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In his opinion, it's a lot more fun to swim at Sand Harbor because of the water's clarity; it's nice to be able to see the other swimmers, buoys and markers in the water.
"And there are no sharks," Wang added.
Following the open water swim, a 47-person group of paddleboarders took off from the beach in the 4-mile race, headed toward Thunderbird Lodge. Incline Village resident Marc Andrews finished the race in just over 49 minutes, taking second place overall.
As participants and viewers enjoyed music, a barbecue, free paddleboard demos and sunshine on the south end of the beach, the state park started filling up.
"They're digging for their credit cards, trying to figure out how to pay the entrance fee, and then they are in shock when I tell them it's free," Sand Harbor Field Technician Sheila Fouts said at the park's entrance. "We're one of the main spots, but a lot of people don't know about (Discover Nevada State Parks Day).
"They are just baffled we're giving them a free day."
Fouts, and Incline resident, has been living at Lake Tahoe for 21 years, raising her four children as a single mother. She said that she had been bringing her family to Sand Harbor for years before working for the state park two years ago.
Fouts says that as a field technician at Sand Harbor, she works with good people in a great atmosphere. She enjoys being "surrounded by the lake, mountains, and beauty of the entire place.
For full results of June 11th's Thunderbird Paddling Festival, visit laketahoepaddling.com. And visit parks.nv.gov to learn more about Sand Harbor and all Nevada State Parks.
Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer with a background in marketing and journalism. She loves sharing stories about Lake Tahoe and her community. Have a story idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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