Public access to Quail Lake looks likely |

Public access to Quail Lake looks likely

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunThe U.S. Forest Service is working to acquire nearly 300 acres toward the south end of Homewood Mountain Resort, including Quail Lake. The lake, which backs against Homewood's Quail Face, has been operated as the resort's private lake since 1992.

The public may soon have the opportunity to visit a pristine 11-acre fishing lake on the West Shore that Homewood Mountain Resort has privately operated since 1992.

The U.S. Forest Service is working to acquire 265 acres in the southern portion of the ski area, including Quail Lake and Quail Creek.

“Essentially, it would be Quail Lake and its watershed,” said lands program manager Bob Rodman of the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

“We’re primarily interested in the watershed protection and the recreation potential for Quail Lake,” he added.

Nearly all of the property the Forest Service has acquired in the basin has been obtained through deals much like this one, officials say. Their goal is to minimize development and protect environmentally sensitive land to limit the further degradation of Lake Tahoe.

“You’re not going to see development up there; it’s intended for maintaining water quality. However, it will be available to the public for recreation purposes,” said Leslie Morefield with the Forest Service lands program.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit will evaluate the appropriate degree of public access upon purchase. But some fisherman say Quail Lake remains pristine because it is limited to so few anglers.

“Essentially, doing public access would allow it to be ruined,” said Leo Ortiz, a Santa Cruz resident who’s been flyfishing at Quail Lake since the early 1990s.

“It’s a jewel that could just be squashed. It would be a catastrophe,” he said in a phone interview.

Forest Service officials intend to have the property appraised before next spring and acquire it in the next year or so, Morefield said.

“We’re in delicate negotiations, so we need to be very careful about what we release,” she said.

Once purchased, the appraised value of the nearly 300 acres is public information, Rodman said.

Homewood Mountain Resort, owned by San Francisco-based development company JMA Ventures, approached the Forest Service about the parcel. The U.S. Forest Service operates under a “willing seller program,” meaning the property owners have expressed a definite interest in selling to the federal agency.

“It’s not something where we were going and trying to buy land against their will,” Morefield said.

The purchase price will be based on fair-market-value appraisals prepared by qualified private appraisers and approved by the Forest Service.

“We’re still looking forward and we’ve offered to sell it to them,” said JMA owner Art Chapman in a phone interview this week. “Their process has been waylaid since the Angora Fire.”

The property under negotiation includes some ski terrain on the property, but no chairlifts.

“Even though we’d acquire some of the runs, we’d authorize its use,” Rodman said.

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