From Bonanza To Regional Park?

Lake Tahoe
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The Ponderosa Ranch, a western theme amusement park inspired by the hit television show "Bonanza," would be sold to the government and turned into a regional park under a plan being considered by its owners.

If a public buyout occurs, this summer could be the last season for the 548-acre park on Lake Tahoe's north shore, said David Geddes, its co-owner and president.

But if the deal falls through, the prime land in Incline Village could be targeted for major commercial development, Geddes said.

"We're giving the government the first look at it," Geddes told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "There would be some huge public benefits."

A public buyout could help in efforts to preserve Lake Tahoe's environment and enhance recreation, said John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

His agency, charged with protecting the lake's environment, is part of a coalition of governmental agencies considering the plan. Others include the U.S. Forest Service and Nevada State Parks Division.

"It's exciting," Singlaub said. "There's a whole lot of aspects to it and it's terrific the owners are willing to consider the public buyout."

But Singlaub said an appraisal has set the price for the property "in the $40 million to $50 million range," and it's uncertain whether a public buyout is feasible.

Converting the property into a regional park would provide better public access to the Tahoe Rim Trail and nearby national and state forest land, owners say.

The Ponderosa Ranch's nine-acre parking lot could be used for other attractions in the area, including beaches on Lake Tahoe's east shore, they add.

"The list of potential benefits just goes on and on ... This (is) a truly unique conservation opportunity," ranch co-owner Royce Anderson told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

The amusement park, which opened in 1967, was based on the NBC show that aired from 1959 to 1973. "Bonanza" concerned the exploits of the Cartwright family who lived on the fictional Ponderosa Ranch.

More than 250,000 people visit the ranch between April and October each year.

If the public buyout fails, the ranch might be sold to a developer who could retain the western village attraction and build hotels or motels, owners said.

"It's probably the most developable private parcel at Lake Tahoe," said Jacques Etchegoyhen, co-owner of a Minden-based land-use consulting company hired by the owners.

"If we're not successful, the property could be very intensely developed," he added.

Other public buyouts at Lake Tahoe include the $50 million acquisition of the Whittell Estate and Thunderbird Lodge in 1998 and the $29.5 million purchase of a 1,790-acre south shore ranch last year.