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New museum slated for state park

Plans for a 10,000-square-foot lakefront museum at Donner Memorial State Park are solidifying, but traffic concerns are worrying some lake area residents. The new High Sierra Crossing Museum, planned for five acres at the eastern end of Donner Lake, would replace the existing visitor center and museum, which is slated to become park offices. The new facility is slated to house a theater, lobby, exhibit space, gift shop and public restroom.A second access road near the Tahoe Donner Marina and a 70-space paid parking lot are also part of the layout. Many of the details of the new museum were decided during the park’s General Plan process, which began three years ago, said environmental coordinator Shaelyn Raab Strattan.”I think that there was some confusion about what will be addressed in the environmental review rather than what had already been addressed in the General Plan,” said Strattan.

A meeting to unveil the museum plans was held at the park in October. The next opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal will be when the draft environmental impact report is released next month. After finding it infeasible to expand the current facility or locate a new building on the Teichert property in Coldstream Canyon, the Parks Department drew up plans for the lakefront property. “It wouldn’t be financially responsible to go in and try to expand the existing building,” said Strattan, noting the current location’s status on the national registry of archeological sites makes it difficult to add additional square footage.Strattan said the current building is cramped and the single access road creates vehicle congestion during the summer.”The problem is the existing building is too small to house the kind of exhibits we want and the visitation we get,” said Strattan. “There are already significant [vehicle] backups during busy days in the summer.”While the location is a perfect place to put a museum, Donner Lake resident Charlie White said putting the road so close to the Tahoe Donner Marina will create traffic problems in the summer.

“Everything else is fine,” said White. “It would be a great addition.”But Donner Lake resident Bill Owens said that the proposal has flown under the radar, and was surprised to here the park was so far along in the process.”Everyone I had talked to had no clue that this was proposed or going in,” said Owens, who attended the Oct. 12 meeting. “I was under the assumption that this was a proposal and they are under the assumption that it is going in.”Owens was also concerned about the traffic the project will create.”I’m an avid bicyclist and I can just see that being a mess down there,” said Owens.Strattan said that acceleration and turn lanes will be added to Donner Pass Road if the project is approved. She agreed that that traffic will likely be one of the major issues associated with the new museum.



While nearby homeowners may be concerned with the traffic, Strattan said the design of the building will be screened by trees, sit nearly 200 feet away from the lake, and blend into the natural setting.”We’re expecting it to be pretty low profile,” she said. “It will not be a two-story building. We’re not going for sleek and modern.”Check it outDonner Memorial State Park museum, go to http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=22145. To comment on the High Sierra Crossings Museum, contact Shaelyn Raab Strattan, One Capital Mall Suite 500, Sacramento, CA, 95814. Fax it to 916- 445- 8791 or email sraab@parks.ca.gov.


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