Kings Beach’s sandy shoreline is the town’s jewel, attracting countless sunbathers on hot summer days and bringing visitors into the downtown corridor.
“You take away the beach and Kings Beach would just be Kings,” said General Manager Steve Rogers of the North Tahoe Public Utility District. “That sandy beach is just the heart and soul of downtown Kings Beach.”
Partially owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy and the State of California, the beach ” officially known as the California State Recreation Area ” is a state park.
The utility district, however, is the state park’s custodian, and the district maintains a lot of ground with little resources.
“How important is the beach to the downtown, and the vacation and tourist viability in Kings Beach? The beach is the draw,” Rogers said. “[The district] recognizes the importance of a healthy, vital beach to our community.”
Long-standing agreements with both the conservancy and the state allow the district to charge parking and concession fees in return for maintaining the beach.
Those revenues, however, must stay within the boundaries, and be applied to the state recreation area, Rogers said.
The district uses those fees to finance beach maintenance and operations. According to the district’s draft Parks and Recreation Master Plan, the Kings Beach State Recreation Area received $155,000 in concession and parking fees in the fiscal year of 2006-07.
For a district operating on a tight budget, concession and parking fees are a valuable source of maintenance funds.
North Tahoe Water Sports Manager Jamy Habeger said it’s worth it to pay the commission fee for the great location the state recreation area offers his business.
“This is one of the best beaches in Tahoe,” Habeger said.
The conservancy also gives the district a yearly stipend to subsidize its custodial services. Not only does the district maintain the conservancy’s property in downtown Kings Beach, but it also picks up trash and cleans the bathrooms at every other conservancy lot in the district.
While Placer County also pays the district a stipend to maintain its property, California State Parks does not give the district any similar funding.
Rogers said the parking and concession fees generally compensate for visitors from outside the district, who do not finance the parks and recreation department through property taxes.
“[Beach funds] are not profit centers,” Rogers said. “But, what they do allow us to do is bring on staff to be efficient in maintaining the beaches.”
In addition to a handful of seasonal park employees, the district utilizes Placer County’s unpaid labor program, an option for those guilty of minor offenses to pay off their sentence through community service, to help augment the maintenance cost in the district.
“It’s quite a bit of effort [to clean the beach]. You have got to keep up on it everyday,” said Mark Chapman, who cleans the beach for the district’s unpaid labor program. “I wish people would care more about Lake Tahoe … and use the garbage cans. They take it for granted; it’s here for everybody to enjoy.”