Donner Lake museum not a done deal | SierraSun.com

Donner Lake museum not a done deal

David Bunker
Sierra Sun
An rendering of the proposed High Sierra Crossing Museum planned to replace the current museum at Donner Memorial State Park.
ALL |

Local residents will have more time to comment on plans to build a 10,000-square-foot museum along the east shore of Donner Lake.

The state parks department decided to extend the comment period ” and even explore alternatives to the shoreline location ” after the plan proved unpopular with lake-area residents and the Truckee Town Council.

Instead of the initial March 4 deadline, comments on the environmental review of the project will be received until March 22.

Still, the plans for the museum have caused ripples around the lake. The interest in looking at alternatives to the shoreline site was spurred by public comment that was often intensely critical of the planned museum’s location.

“All in all this is about as poorly put together as it possibly could be,” said Bill Hudson of the project and environmental review. “To pave over the most pristine section of the park is unconscionable.”

Plans include at least 70 additional parking spaces and a second entrance off of Donner Pass Road. The existing museum is planned to be used for office and storage space.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation will look at organizing another public meeting on the museum and investigate putting the new museum on an already developed portion of the park, said Sierra Superintendent Hayden Sohm. That site had previously been ruled out because it is has historic artifacts of national importance below the ground.

“We thought that it was in everybody’s interest to extend the deadline (for comments),” said Sohm after the meeting.

Not only did the paving and excavation required for construction bother residents, but the views from the other sides of Donner Lake would be blemished by the structure, they said.

With a second entrance to the park on Donner Pass Road, parked cars on the side of the roadway and trailers, buses and RVs coming in and out, Donner Lake residents also worried traffic could stall on busy summer days.

“The new entrance to the park seems redundant,” said Emilie Kashtan, a Donner Lake resident. “A second entrance introduces double the safety issues.”

But park officials said they were not trying to bring this project in under the radar, citing the public meetings they have held both downtown and at the Donner Lake museum.

“I want to make it clear that we are not trying to sneak this through,” said Sohm. “I am prepared to have future dialogue at this level.”

Although the museum did not violate town land use and traffic standards, according to town staff, the town council took a hard line on the museum plans.

Councilwoman Barbara Green said the second entrance to the park was “rife with safety issues” and Councilman Josh Susman said the discussion of other sites for the museum was “inadequate.” Mayor Craig Threshie asked the state park department for “further collaboration with the community.”

Just changing the location of the proposed museum may take care of many of the town’s concerns with the project, said Truckee Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook.

“If they put this (museum) in a different location some of these issues may go away,” Lashbrook said.