County study aims to helpthe Summit
The Donner Summit area, already an unhealthy environment for business, is in serious jeopardy of deteriorating completely if the government and private interests do not invest heavily in community-wide improvements, a new county study reports.The $35,000 study, which was funded by state community development block grant funds, blatantly spells out the condition of the summit area, and says that land use, landscaping and pedestrian access must all be improved for the community to survive.”It appears that without change this area will continue to decrease its viability – the limited variety of goods and services offered will continue to shrink, any remaining sense of community will vanish, and the area will be fully reduced to a wayside that skiers will only pass through on their way to the larger resorts,” according to the study.The area has several impediments to revitalization, not the least of which is a sewer district restriction that bars development in Soda Springs’ core. This restriction may be lifted as soon as 2005, if sewer capacity is expanded, the report said. The severe weather on the summit is the biggest planning influence, and creates the inequity of strong tourist months and sluggish shoulder seasons.
To overcome these weaknesses, summit businesses must exploit their strengths which include strong ski traffic, natural beauty, proximity to Insterstate 80 and a small town feel. The condition of the area is no surprise to Nevada County Supervisor Barbara Green, who has seen lodging and amenities steadily shrink in an area that sees about 10,000 skiers pass through during a normal winter Saturday.”It used to be you’d go skiing at the summit and have somewhere to go afterwards,” said Green. “If we had a place for some of them to stay over we could capture some of the business.”Green, who has lobbied for investment in the summit for years, said she sees the study as a the first step in jump-starting a revitalization of businesses in and around Soda Springs.”No single person has the money to get started,” said Green.
The study encourages the summit to develop a commercial core that will serve as an obvious community hub instead of food, gas and lodging services being spreading across the area. Lodging services tailored to the specific needs of recreational visitors would become financially viable in this environment, and affordable housing tenants in the area would benefit from the clustered services, according to the study.Improvements to signs, building fronts and landscaping could also change the passing skiers negative perception of the business environment, the report said.”The overall impression of the Soda Springs area is that the community appears worn out and run down,” the study read.These physical improvements would likely attract new businesses to the area. A commercial or village center, with landscaping and pedestrian access would give skiers and visitors the reason to linger on the summit that has been lacking, according to the report. A revitalized summit would also bring revenue to local government in the form of increased transient occupancy taxes and sales taxes.
“Currently Soda Springs is not special. The town offers no reason for people to get off of the highway,” said the study, noting that there are large empty parking lots, run down buildings, junk in front of houses, unattractive signs and empty building lots across the summit.County officials hope that the recent study will begin changing all of that.Check it outThe Donner Summit Economic Development Study will be discussed at the Nevada County Board of Supervisors Meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24 at 10:15 a.m. at Truckee Town Hall.