Pedaling Dollar Hill to Tahoe Vista |

Pedaling Dollar Hill to Tahoe Vista

Sierra Sun graphicThe dotted line represents the North Tahoe PUD's proposed bike trail from Dollar Point to North Tahoe Regional Park.

A proposed bike trail that connects Dollar Hill to Tahoe Vista is vital in a basin-wide trail system, say agencies and bicycle groups.

The California Tahoe Conservancy on Friday approved up to $976,000 toward the North Tahoe Bike Trail proposed by the North Tahoe Public Utility District, solidifying the conservancy’s commitment toward the project.

“The conservancy board remains committed to a lake-wide bike trail. This is one of many trail segments, but this is one of the biggest,” said Ray Lacey, deputy director of the California Tahoe Conservancy. “It is really just a gap in the region-wide system.”

The proposed route, approximately nine miles in length, would start at Dollar Hill and travel through Agate Bay, Carnelian Bay, Cedar Flat and Tahoe Vista, ending at the North Tahoe Regional Park. The environmental review process has just begun on the project.

Steve Rogers, North Tahoe Public Utility District general manager, said the district has worked for many years to get to this point. A past, potential trail route went through sensitive Goshawk habitat and substantial property owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

The route is not able to go along the highway because space is inadequate along the roadway, said Rogers. The district would need 15 to 20 feet of right-of-way along the road, which does not exist in certain spots. The steep grade on Dollar Hill is also extensive, Rogers said. To be qualified as a Class I multi-use bike trail, the grade cannot exceed 5 percent.

The trail as proposed now goes through land owned by the district, the California Tahoe Conservancy, Placer County, the U.S. Forest Service and private property owners. The district will have to get easements from the agencies and private property owners, which Rogers said is a significant hurdle to the project.

“You have a number of agencies looking at how to make it happen,” Rogers said of the trail.

One major private owner is the Vedanta Society of Northern California, which is a religious nonprofit corporation that is spiritually affiliated with the Ramakrishna Order in India, according to the society’s Web site. The San Francisco-based group uses the 200 acres in Carnelian Bay as a spiritual retreat throughout the summer.

Rogers said that piece of land remains a major hurdle and the district is looking at other alternatives so the trail would not have to go through the property.

The construction of the trail from Tahoe Vista to Dollar Hill would cost between $18 and $20 million, said Rogers. The grant approved Friday from the conservancy will fund design and engineering work, permits and the environmental impact report study, said Lacey.

Lacey said the Conservancy is slated to be the main funding source for the project. The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association may also provide funding if needed, said Steve Teshara, the association’s executive director.

The trail could be built in segments, Rogers said, but the maintenance of the project would have to be funded by the district.

Rogers estimates it would cost $20,000 to $25,000 to maintain the trail, which includes trail clearing and signage.

Tahoe City Public Utility District Assistant General Manger Cindy Gustafson said her district budgeted $230,000 for 20 miles of trail maintenance next year. She said it costs between $11,000 to $12,000 per mile per year to repair cracks, filling, sealing, sweeping, signage, sand removal, spraying, re-striping the trails and removing snow in the spring.

“There is a lot of maintenance, but it is worth it,” Gustafson said.

Rogers said the North Tahoe district may collaborate with the Tahoe City district on the maintenance of its trails.

The environmental impact review could take up to two years, with construction of the trail beginning in three summers, Rogers said.

“This particular bike trail is a critical link that is missing,” said Julie Regan, spokeswoman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Regan said the TRPA’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan adopted in 2004 notes significant missing links in a basin-wide trail, including the North Tahoe bike trail.

“There are many people who are passionate and interested in getting bike trails. Improving bike and pedestrian trails around the lake is a priority for TRPA,” Regan said. “We want to make Tahoe more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. It has community and environmental benefits.”

Ty Polastri, founder and president of the South Shore-based Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition, said the North Tahoe link is just a piece in the puzzle.

“There is great work being done,” Polastri said. “What we’re pushing for is bicycle trails and links that are safe.”

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