Lake Tahoe beach fence and#8212; after years of public v. private dispute and#8212; comes down | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe beach fence and#8212; after years of public v. private dispute and#8212; comes down

Ryan Slabaugh
Sierra Sun
Ryan Slabaugh/Sierra SunJimmy Russell, owner of Truckee Fence, begins to split up the fence removed Thursday that divided Speedboat Beach.
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BROCKWAY, Calif. and#8212; Truckee Fence owner Jimmy Russell rarely works in front of a crowd.

But Thursday, Russell became the star of the final act of a play that has gone on for decades involving disputes about whether or not nearly a quarter-mile of beach front between Kings Beach and Crystal Bay, Nev., is private property.

Nearby residents watched and took pictures as Russell cut, dug and pulled a large metal fence from Speedboat Beach, which during the summer would have crowds packed up next to the fence. The barrier, installed by neighboring landowners, prevented the public from accessing nearly 90 percent of the recreation and scenic area.

Now, it will be open for everyone.

After decades of disputes, the property-line argument escalated last summer when landowners Robert and Carol McNeil and Marc Desautels posted yellow and#8220;No Trespassingand#8221; signs on the beachfront, between the high and low water marks.

That didn’t fly with the California State Lands. While people can own the land up to the low watermark, the state of California maintains a public trust between the high and low watermarks, said Curtis Fossum, Chief Counsel for California State Lands.

John Garamendi, Lt. Governor of California, didn’t buy it either. After hearing passionate pleas from Speedboat neighbors and reading written testimony from others on Oct. 22, 2009, Garamendi gave State Lands the authority to tear down the fence.

Then Wednesday, neighbors got the call that it would finally be removed, which prompted an informal gathering, which was expected, said State Lands worker Mary Hays. and#8220;We know how much this means to them,and#8221; Hays said.

and#8220;It’s public now,and#8221; said Ashley Hills, whose grandfather fought for the same battles when he lived near the beach. Hills was one of the vocal opponents of the fence who brought it to the state’s attention. and#8220;This was a physical and psychological barrier,and#8221; she said.

and#8220;Now it’s going to be gone.and#8221;

Neighbor Cheri Sugal stood in amazement watching the fence be cut into pieces.

and#8220;It’s a huge victory for the public,and#8221; Sugal said. and#8220;These are things that happen in our community. If you take some action, you can have some victories. Look at the beach we just got back.and#8221;