Pay parking now enforced at Kings Beach park | SierraSun.com

Pay parking now enforced at Kings Beach park

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun Michelle Nowicki of Kings Beach uses her resident access card to open the parking gate at the Kings Beach Recreation Area Monday afternoon. The North Tahoe Public Utility DIstrict installed parking gates and pay stations to increase revenue in Kings Beach and pay for the upkeep of the park.
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Enforced pay parking at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area generated a few grumbles Thursday from locals and visitors who were confused with the new operation.

Visitors to the state beach or the North Tahoe Community Conference Center now enter through gates and must take a ticket and pay a $3 parking fee. Residents of the North Tahoe Public Utility District service area can park free with a local’s card.

“People don’t mind paying,” said Conference Services Director Nora Daniels, who was helping guests of the conference center with the new pay system. “It’s just an educational curve. It will take time. I think once it works and people get used to it and locals know they can get a card, it will be better.”

Jason’s Beachside Grille waitress Elizabeth Banker said the restaurant, which backs up to the parking lot, offers discounts to customers if they eat more than $10 worth of food to cover some of the parking costs.

“Everyone wants a discount on food,” Banker said, noting that she lets customers know there is free parking at the Brook Street lot behind Bank of the West.

On Thursday, visitors to the conference center complained that the drive-up machine was not giving tickets and there was some confusion on the cost of the parking and where to pay. Despite some of the problems, North Tahoe Public Utility District Executive Assistant Pam LeFrancois said most people are using the new system without issues.

“It’s going relatively well. There’s a few kinks we’re working out,” LeFrancois said. “It just takes some time to work through. It is an education for the people using it as well.”

Payment has always been required at the parking lot, but was not enforced. As a result, the district was losing money on the lot, according to NTPUD Chief Financial Officer Larry Marple.

“This parking lot is not owned by the conference center or the PUD. It’s owned by California State Parks,” Marple said, adding that the district maintains the lot, but the state does not provide them funds. “We’ve been losing money the last couple of years. We’ve spent more than we’ve taken in.”

The pay stations are expected to raise additional revenue for the maintenance of the parks, upgrades and addressing accessibility issues. The district estimates it will generate $90,000 from the Kings Beach park this fiscal year, which started in July, Marple said.

It costs $155,000 to maintain the parking lot, beach and public rest room, but $65,000 is expected from concessionaires of the park.

Parking fees will rise in the summer, LeFrancois said, with a variable parking rate system that differs from the past flat-rate fee of $7 during peak season. Residents of the district will get a discount in the summer season with a local’s card. The first 15 minutes, for drop-off or pick-up, will be free year-round.

Visitors to the North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista will also pay a $3 parking fee year-round starting in a few weeks.

The new changes will not affect the Coon Street Boat Launch or the North Tahoe Beach in Kings Beach.

“We’re hoping that in the summer, by having a variable rate structure, that it will help people,” LeFrancois said. “It is based on impact of usage.”

Visitors to both the Kings Beach State Recreation Area and the North Tahoe Regional Park will be greeted by a gate instead of a kiosk attendant. In Kings Beach, all users will take a ticket at the gate, park and pay at the end of the day.

Two machines exist: a walk-up machine that accepts cash, debit or credit cards and vouchers; and a drive-up machine that upon exit accepts credit card, vouchers and locals cards. The machines do not give change, so exact change is required.

Property owners who live within the boundaries of the North Tahoe Public Utility District can obtain a local’s access card for free. A second card can be purchased for $7.50. Cards are available at the NTPUD Administrative Office, 875 National Avenue, Tahoe Vista, or by calling 546-4212.

What people had to say about enforced pay parking at Kings Beach State Recreation Area:

Gretchen Griffey, Tahoe Vista: “I think it’s fine and if I can get in free it’s better. We love the park. We will definitely be back.”

Bill Henry, Granite Bay: “I came to a conference here two years ago and this was my first time back. I went by [the parking lot] the first time and I said, ‘That’s not it.’ I wasn’t really ready for it. But if it helps maintain the park, that’s a good thing.”

Tim Hauserman, Tahoe City: “I’m not psyched about it. It seems unfair that if you live in Tahoe City that you have to pay.”

Charity Canterbury, receptionist at North Tahoe Community Conference Center: “People are a little miffed. There are little kinks to work out.”