Truckee council approves July Fourth fireworks show for Donner Lake

Fireworks go off above Donner Lake on the Fourth of July.
Justin Scacco /

TRUCKEE, Calif. — After much discussion and feedback from public comment, the Truckee Town Council on Tuesday voted to grant a special use permit to allow Fourth of July fireworks at Donner Lake.

Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District has hosted a Fourth of July event, which includes a firework show, at the West End of Donner Lake since 1986. The event was canceled due to the pandemic but was hosted again in 2022, with about 3,500 people showing up. 

While there have been no serious safety concerns with the event in the past, as the area sees more tourism and wildfire risk becomes greater, Town staff are questioning whether having fireworks is still appropriate. 

By 2 p.m. on Tuesday, when the public comment period ended, 119 people had written, 95 in support of the fireworks and 24 against. About a dozen people spoke in person at the meeting too. 

For people in support of the fireworks, they mentioned economic benefits, family tradition of attending the event, and the significance of the holiday. Those against mentioned environmental impacts, impacts to wildlife, wildfire risk and congestion. 

When it came to the significance of the holiday, Councilmember Courtney Henderson reminded the public that the celebration of the holiday itself was not on the line, just the fireworks display. 

“This holiday isn’t about fireworks, it’s about coming together, it’s about celebrating our great country’s independence and there are so many ways to recognize, honor and celebrate that,” Henderson said. 

Councilmember Anna Klovstad and Henderson both raised concerns over traffic and trash. TDRPD did not include an alternative transportation plan as part of their permit application, which was not required but council still wanted to see alternative transit considered. 

One issue with focusing on public transit, staff said, is safety concerns in case of evacuation. Henderson still urged staff to be creative when looking for solutions. 

Klovstad, who lives in the Donner Lake area, wanted to see more done to mitigate trash and environmental concerns.

“This is not a one day event, that lake is a mess for days,” Klovstad said. 

She added that she was confident TDRPD would clean-up West End Beach, but the impacts extend beyond that area. 

Councilmember Jan Zabriskie suggested the town, rather than waving the special use permit fees, contribute money for mitigation efforts. 

The council voted 4-0, with Vice Mayor Dave Polivy being absent, to approve the special use permit without waiving the fees and contributing $25,000 to traffic and trash mitigation efforts. 

They also directed staff to bring the special use permit policy back to the board to discuss whether events such as this would be appropriate for the future. 

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.