California agencies hit snag with Lake Tahoe land swap
— Visit parks.ca.gov/?page_id=512 for more information about the proposed Dollar property and Rubicon urban lot exchange.
— Visit facebook.com/friendsofdollaropenspace for the community’s campaign against the transfer.
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Faced with increasing public concern, state officials have decided to move forward with only a portion of a proposed land swap involving hundreds of acres of land at Lake Tahoe.
Originally, the California Tahoe Conservancy and California State Parks were negotiating an ownership exchange for the Dollar property in Tahoe City with urban lots in the Rubicon subdivision on the West Shore, targeted to be finalized by the end of this month.
While the Rubicon transfer will continue, the Dollar exchange has been put on hold for reevaluation, based on issues raised by the public, Victoria Ortiz, communications liaison for the Conservancy, said Tuesday.
“We’re trying to be responsible land management agencies and figure out what’s in the best interest of the agencies and the community in moving forward,” she said.
It’s unknown when a Dollar decision will be made, she said. Areas of study will include land coverage, land management rules and regulations and recreational patterns.
The swap is part a larger effort for the California Natural Resources Agency, working with state parks and the Conservancy, to consolidate and exchange state lands, and to share personnel, facilities and other resources to “more effectively manage state-owned lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 California Budget Act.
PUBLIC CONCERN AT TAHOE
In 1989, the Conservancy acquired the 940-acre Dollar property — which lies between Burton Creek State Park and the Highlands — at the request of state parks, with the intent of transferring ownership for integration into Burton Creek, Ortiz said.
As for the 19 Rubicon parcels — located just south of Meeks Bay and north of Rubicon Bay — while state parks owns them, the Conservancy has been managing them since the mid-1990s.
Under the original land transfer, ownership and management of the Dollar property would go to state parks, with 9.3 acres of Rubicon lots going to the Conservancy, Ortiz said.
“The neighbors there won’t see much of a change because the Conservancy has been managing Rubicon lots for the last 20 years,” she said.
Yet, the original proposal called for the Dollar property to have new rules and regulations under state parks, causing concern among some community members.
“What I don’t want to see is higher regulation from a person who sits in an office down in Sacramento, transferring all the city area laws up here to the country,” said former Tahoe City resident Melinda McAlister, who uses the property’s trails on a regular basis.
State parks is regulated by California code, which therefore would apply to the Dollar property, as it does with other state parks.
Some rules that would apply include dogs not being allowed on trails and only on designated fire roads when leashed, operational hours from sunrise to sunset and mountain bikes allowed on designated trails and fire roads.
‘WHERE THE LOCALS RECREATE’
Meanwhile, under the Conservancy, leashed dogs are allowed on trails; there are no operational hours; and pedestrian and bicycle traffic are allowed on designated trails, while equestrian traffic is allowed on designated fire roads. Motorized vehicle use is prohibited.
“To me (this) land feels as if it’s the last of free space with really nice trails, still close enough to town so you feel safe, and the land has such a variety of trails to suit whatever you feel you’d like to tailor your workout for that day,” McAlister said.
Under state parks management, the agency would determine which trails would remain, based on a “comprehensive” resource inventory to be done by staff.
“This is where the locals recreate,” said Tahoe City resident Molly Murphy. “The trails are used all the time by folks to walk their dogs … mountain bike, run, etc.”
Murphy said she believes changes in the property’s rules and regulations would lead to residents using the property less.
“This would be a huge loss to North Tahoe residents,” Murphy wrote in an email to the Sun.
According to the state, other Conservancy-owned properties, including the California side of Van Sickle Bi-State Park, and parcels adjacent to Washoe Meadows State Park and Emerald Bay State Park, also are expected to be transferred to state parks at a future date.
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