Long-awaited Tahoe bike path awaits final private funding hurdle
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — When the heat gets hot in Las Vegas, Steven Hardie and his wife Sandy come up each year to their summer condo at Crystal Bay Cove to enjoy life and recreate at Lake Tahoe.
“Every place has its undesirable climates, and Las Vegas, well, it happens to be quite undesirable right now,” Steven said with a chuckle Wednesday.
The Hardies will soon have even more reason to have fun in the cool Tahoe sun, thanks to their recent $50,000 donation to the Tahoe Fund.
It’s the first domino to fall in the organization’s effort to raise $750,000 in private money to close the funding gap for the Incline-to-Sand Harbor bike path project.
The 10-foot-wide, three-mile paved path is expected to improve safety along a dangerous stretch of Highway 28 that often features motorists dodging cyclists and pedestrians on the lake’s busy east shore.
It will be separated from the highway, beginning at the Lakeshore Drive intersection and expanding that road’s current bike path to Sand Harbor State Park, providing access to Hidden Beach, Memorial Point and other scenic vistas.
With construction possible as early as May 2015, it marks the next major component of the Tahoe Transportation District-led Lake Tahoe Bikeway project that aims to one day circumnavigate the lake.
“I think it’s going to definitely increase safety, not only for bikers, but also for hikers who go back and forth between Sand Harbor and beyond,” said Hardie, who’s training for the Ironman 70.3 competition this September at Lake Tahoe. “I’d love to one day ride the whole perimeter of the lake and not worry about getting hit by a car. So many people are looking at the lake and not at the bikes; it’s dangerous.”
While most of the $12.5 million project is secured by way of federal, state, Washoe County and local grants, the privately raised $750,000 will serve as the final funding match, said Amy Berry, CEO of the Tahoe Fund.
Since its inception in 2010, the fund has been gaining momentum by funding smaller projects, usually via five-figure donations to environmentally sustainable projects such as the Blackwood Creek/Eagle Rock Trail restoration on the West Shore and the Incline/3rd Creek restoration in Incline Village.
Considering the fund has seen 155 percent growth year over year in how it raises money for projects, Berry said now is the time to launch its first major capital campaign.
“I think it made a lot of sense in terms of the evolution of the fund … we’ve seen incredible growth since 2010, and now we’re tapping into something that is a great need at Lake Tahoe,” Berry said. “There is so much love and passion for Lake Tahoe, and we want to serve as a way for people to philanthropically share that love.”
It’s a vision shared by the Tahoe Fund’s board of directors, which approved the fundraising drive earlier this week.
Board chair Tim Cashman, who’s also a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board member, said the path could be “one of the most spectacular bike paths in all the United States,” while working in line with the 2012 TRPA Regional Plan Update.
“Having a presence in Tahoe since the mid 80s, I’ve watched the evolution of the lake and am very happy to have been part of the new regional plan, which I think will spur redevelopment around the lake and addresses the old-built environment that’s created these problems you see today,” Cashman said.
The goal is to have the $750,000 raised by the end of summer, Berry and Cashman said.
“From $100 to $100,000, there will be opportunities for everyone to donate in any fashion,” Cashman said.
For example, the Hardies’ $50,000 donation allows them a naming opportunity at one of 16 scenic outlooks planned along the path, Berry said.
Other naming opportunities include rock walls, benches and bridges. Further, the trailhead will feature a donor wall that recognizes all contributions of $100 or more.
Currently, a final environmental impact document is being prepared for future TRPA and Federal Highway Administration approval.
If the project is approved, and if the $750,000 is raised by the end of the year, the other grant money would follow, and construction could begin next May, said Carly Hasty, TTD’s district manager.
If not, 2016 would be “the latest” construction would start, Hasty said. The project would take two summers to complete.