Submitted by Amy Berry, CEO of Tahoe Fund
Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in Nevada and the world. It supports a $5 billion economy built on people’s love of visiting its amazing blue waters and the tall mountains that surround it. Local businesses and organizations spend millions of dollars a year to encourage visitation to the area for skiing, hiking, biking, boating and just taking in the views.
Imagine then, how odd it was for this same group of businesses and organizations to suddenly have to close down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And then to have to actively campaign for people to please stay away. Trails and beaches have been closed. State Parks is limiting the number of people into Sand Harbor. The City of South Lake has gone so far as to issue citations for visiting.
Even with these measures, people are still flocking to the beauty of Tahoe. While appropriately frustrating for the local communities who fear this influx will further the spread of the virus, it is also a clear sign that people want and need to be outside in beautiful places. We know being outside has real benefits to physical and mental health. The question becomes, how do we do this responsibly, now and into the future?
Before the global pandemic, Tahoe began experiencing a surge in visitation from the growing nearby community of Reno/Sparks, and from Sacramento and the Bay Area. According to some sources, annual visits now total over 20 million. This is more than the three largest national parks combined. Day visits now make up approximately 50 percent of visitors. This increased visitation puts real stress on the natural environment (and its land managers) as trails, beaches and roadways fill up.
At the Tahoe Fund, our organization has spent the last 10 years using the power of philanthropy to help our public agency partners complete critical environmental improvement projects around Tahoe. Our vision is to create a balance between the human and natural environments. We want people to be able to experience this awe-inspiring beauty. To fill their lungs with clear air and their minds with clear thinking that can only be done in a place as beautiful as Tahoe.
We also want to ensure that the very place that provides such solace and inspiration is treated with respect. We recognize the importance of improving outdoor recreation infrastructure to handle the visitors, as well as the need to build a strong stewardship ethos that helps everyone understand the role they play as individuals in managing this balance.
It is important for everyone who needs Tahoe to recognize that Tahoe needs you too. Tahoe needs you to support important state and federal funding that will keep aquatic invasive species out of the Lake, improve Lake clarity, restore our forests, and design innovative new ways to travel to and around Tahoe. Tahoe needs you to support new trails and paths that will provide access while protecting the natural environment. Most of all, Tahoe needs you to take care of Tahoe. Do your part. Be respectful of the environment and others. Do what you can to take care of something this special and it really will be here for generations to come.
Join Amy Berry, CEO of the Tahoe Fund – and other local experts – in a community conversation on May 27 via the Nevada Tomorrow YouTube Channel. “Our Nevadan Nature: Loving Nevada to Death” is the fourth event in a year-long speaker series presented by Truckee Meadows Tomorrow that focuses on topics that matter most to northern Nevadans.
For more information about the Speaker Series event, visit: www.nevadatomorrow.org/speaker_series
As Tahoe Fund CEO, Amy leads the organization’s efforts to use the power of philanthropy to help complete more environmental improvement projects around the Tahoe Basin. She has raised more than $10 million from private donors, including more than $1 million for a new section of the Tahoe Trail from Incline to Sand Harbor. In the past few years, she has helped the organization leverage $2M in private donations to secure more than $40M in public funding. The Tahoe Fund’s portfolio of more than 40 projects includes critical watershed restoration projects, new sections of the Tahoe Trail, expansion of public access, and prevention and control of aquatic invasive species. She worked with more than 50 partners to create the region’s first collaborative stewardship program, called Take Care Tahoe, which seeks to change the culture of caretaking in the Tahoe Region.
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