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Lake Tahoe Water Trail and Tahoe Adventure Company

Lake Tahoe Water Trail and Tahoe Adventure Company
Kerry Andras of the Tahoe Adventure Company paddles a kayak on Lake Tahoe in Tahoe Vista on Wednesday. Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun
Despite legislative delay, plans continue

By Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun
September 5, 2007

The dream of a kayak and canoe trail around the shores of Lake Tahoe continues to move forward, despite recent delays in California legislation.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, scored an apparent victory in April when his Lake Tahoe Water Trail Bill, AB 1227, passed through the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Sponsored jointly by the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the assembly bill would have authorized the creation of a kayak and canoe trail around the 72-mile perimeter of Lake Tahoe.

But the bill has since been waylaid and will likely be re-introduced by a new legislator next year, said Executive Director Patrick Wright of the California Tahoe Conservancy.

At a Tahoe City Public Utility District board of directors meeting Tuesday evening, Wright explained that even though a state mandate would have to wait another year, water trail plans are moving forward.

With or without enabling legislation, government agencies and interested parties have started to collaborate on how to establish the water trail.

What's a water trail?
A water trail is mostly defined by public access points, officials say.

Not too different from the Tahoe Rim Trail, advocates want to see an official water trail around Lake Tahoe.

The designation gives it the extra footing it needs for tourism.

"The idea of easy access for portable boats to Lake Tahoe is one that has just exploded," said Sue Rae Irelan, recreation specialist with the California Tahoe Conservancy.

A map of public access points, campgrounds, lodging and points of interest already exists. It was created a few years ago by the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee - a group of volunteers dedicated to coordinating information about nonmotorized boat access points around Lake Tahoe.

But signage, directions and more official information would come with the water trail if mandated by the state.

"Kayakers as a whole are a pretty conscientious, respectful group of people. With a trail designated with where you can and can't go, kayakers, I think, would obey that," said Kevin Hickey, owner of Tahoe Adventure Company and a kayaker.

"I can't really see a reason not to have a [designated water trail]," he added.

Promoting sustainable recreation

Kayaking is exploding in popularity, the sport's advocates say, and a sanctioned water trail on Lake Tahoe would provide an opportunity to explore the shoreline with access points, resting places, campgrounds, lodging, points of interest and other facilities accommodating kayakers and canoeists.

Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, rivers in Pennsylvania, and the San Francisco Bay are among the few places with designated water trails.

"It's one thing to have a trail network, it's another to have this designation," said Wright about the state legislation. "It makes all the difference to the tourism industry."

Kayaker Kevin Hickey, owner and director of Tahoe Adventure Company, agrees.
"As kayaking itself has been growing as a sport, there are other water trails that exist and are very popular and successful as far as people using them," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. "We should be promoting sustainable recreation ... Getting out on the lake paddling is an awesome way to see Tahoe."

Advocates say that an organized trail with signage and directions would address anticipated problems between motorized and nonmotorized boats, although it wouldn't restrict either group's use of the lake.

"This is not an attempt to produce preference to one user group over any others," said Sue Rae Irelan, recreation specialist with the California Tahoe Conservancy.
Additionally, a state designation can help significantly when it comes to funding, advocates say.

"If this is official through the state of California, it allows us to compete better for implementation money," Irelan said. "And it charges us to make sure we work with all the interest groups in the basin."

Beginning in 2003, volunteers formed a nonprofit organization, the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee, in an effort to coordinate information about nonmotorized boat access points around Lake Tahoe. They also produced in 2005 a trail map and trip-planning guide that are for sale throughout the region.

"A lake like Lake Tahoe is the perfect venue for a water trail - it's scenic, it's a lake whose water quality is threatened," Hickey said. "I think promoting nonmotorized recreation is certainly helpful for that cause."

- The Tahoe Daily Tribune's Adam Jensen contributed to this report.

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