INCLINE VILLAGE - The historic Thunderbird Lodge may soon be open for tours and small events.
But in order to get there, people will have to take a bus or boat.
A plan that includes the lodge was approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Governing Board last week.
That approval is the first step in the process to allow cultural facilities in the East Shore plan area that includes the lodge, which is currently designated as a home. The change, crafted specifically for the lodge, becomes effective in 60 days. It will limit attendance to 100 people per event and will require shuttle buses and boats for public access to the site.
The lodge once served as a home to the eccentric "Captain" George Whittell, and was later bought by Jack Dreyfus, who granted it to the nonprofit Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society as part of a massive land swap that involved the Del Webb Corp., Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
The preservation society asked for the changes, including the limitation of 100 people per event to minimize the effect on the lodge's unique stone and iron works. Widespread interest in the lodge has been growing since it was listed last year in the National Register of Historical Places.
Phil Caterino, executive director of the preservation society, was pleased with the board's action and said the next step would be to apply for a change of use for the lodge.
"We hope it will be on next month's agenda," he said. "If approved, we'd be able to start giving tours in winter."
But he said the grand opening would probably be in spring because staff levels were low during the winter, and because the release of a book devoted to Whittell was scheduled for that time.
"But we might have a 'soft opening' during the winter to invite the local community," he added.