SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP)— Redevelopment plans for a popular Lake Tahoe campground and resort dating to the 1930s would eliminate parking along busy Highway 89 and cut the number of camp sites by nearly one-third, but offer year-round camping for the first time.
The U.S. Forest Service released an environmental assessment last week for the remodeling of the Camp Richardson Resort Campground. The service bought the lakefront resort about 2 miles west of South Lake Tahoe in 1965.
At an overall cost of about $8 million, the plans developed by the agency's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit are intended to reduce water quality impacts and traffic congestion on the highway corridor, upgrade campground and day-use facilities and improve parking over a total area of nearly 80 acres.
"This action is needed because the existing environmental conditions and trends in the area are resulting in environmental effects and the recreational opportunities are not responsive to current and likely future demands," Nancy Gibson, the unit's forest manager, said in a letter to interested parties.
Gibson said the three campgrounds at the resort and the highway corridor that connects them continues to be one of the most popular use areas within the entire Tahoe basin "despite the facilities' poor condition."
The plan would reduce the number of campsites from the current 325 to between 230 and 255. Many existing campsites do not meet Forest Service standards regarding water quality protection or access for the disabled, and some are within an identified stream environment zone associated with Pope Marsh, Gibson said.
Daniel Cressy, the Forest Service unit's landscape architect, said the goal is to reduce peak-season camping and encourage people to take advantage of the facilities during other times.
By making the area available year-round, he said, overall annual volume should remain the same.
Under the proposal, the Forest Service would build 100 new parking spaces to accommodate vehicles that used to park along the highway and add to congestion.
"The existing conditions have the potential to create waterborne and airborne sediment, which can negatively affect the water clarity and quality of Lake Tahoe," the agency said.
Cressy said a new campground entrance would be built south of Highway 89 and the interior road system would be improved to provide vehicle access to the campsites.
"Part of the goal is to eliminate the need for people to enter the resort core," Cressy told the Tahoe Tribune.
If all goes according to plan, Cressy said construction could begin on the campground north of the highway in summer 2014.
The second phase, which includes the new southern entrance to the campground, would start the following year. Construction on a new day-use restroom could start this fall, while hotel parking improvements might be under way as early as spring 2014.
"There's a bunch of moving parts," Cressy said. "We're not increasing capacity, we're just better maintaining existing capacity."