Shooting area at Tahoe Donner restored, seeing less use
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Only the chirping of birds could be heard on a plot of U.S. Forest Service land near Tahoe Donner on Monday, a change from the regular “bam, bam, bam” of gunfire heard earlier this year.
“(It was) day in and day out, day in and day out,” recalled Paco Lindsay, a long-time Tahoe Donner resident. “One misfire (with) homes on quarter-acre lots, people enjoying their backyards, kids out, people walking — to me it was just an accident waiting to happen.
“It’s just the wrong place.”
Just outside of Tahoe Donner, one of the largest homeowner associations in the nation with nearly 6,500 properties and 25,000 members, is a shooting area on Carpenter Valley Road, a gravel street off Alder Creek Road.
Shooting on Forest Service property is legal as long as a weapon is not discharged within 150 yards of a structure, across a road or a body water, within or into a cave, or in any manner that endangers a person, said John George, Truckee and Sierraville recreation and land staff officer.
The Carpenter Valley shooting area has been used the past 20 to 30 years, he said.
For the 17 years Lindsay has lived in Tahoe Donner, he said shooting on the property was “sporadic” up until last summer when it became more frequent to a point where it was a “nuisance.”
“I’d try to take (my dog) for a walk, sometimes I felt like I was in Iraq or some place,” he said. “It was bad.”
Upon reaching out to neighbors in January, Lindsay found that others shared his opinion.
Later that month, with the backing of about 30 Tahoe Donner residents, Lindsay reached out to the Forest Service. Concerns cited included noise, public safety, the environment, wildfire danger and property devaluation.
Initially, some actions taken by the Forest Service included increasing patrols to inform and educate the public, posting signs on the property about prohibited acts such as littering and natural resources, and identifying the Boca Shooting Area near Boca Reservoir as an alternative shooting range, George said.
While those measures made a “dent” in the use of the Carpenter Valley-area shooting, it didn’t solve the problem, Lindsay said.
In August, the Forest Service restored the site to a more natural condition and picked up litter, George said.
“We’ve been trying to listen to both sides — shooters and residents — to find a path that addresses both interests,” he said.
A visit to the site Monday revealed remnants of glass bottles, electronics and plastic objects mixed in with the dirt, which looked liked it had been plowed.
“I am glad that USFS bulldozed the site as it was turning into a dumping ground,” said Jim Stang, president of the Tahoe Donner Board of Directors. “Target shooting is enjoyed by a number of Tahoe Donner residents, but the close proximity to many TD homes was not appreciated (noise and safety).
“There are other sites for target shooting in the area (Boca Reservoir, Hobart Mills and Sierra Valley Shooting Range, for example) that are better located and controlled.”
Since the Forest Service restored the site, there’s been less shooting, noise complaints and littering, George said.
Lindsay added: “(The shooting has) cut way back. … Maybe not 100 percent, but it’s way better.”
It’s the hope the site remains that way.
“I hope that it ends up now that people leave it alone,” Lindsay said. “… If it was all of a sudden to rear its ugly head, … people wouldn’t just sit back anymore; it would probably get contentious for sure.”