Tahoe Bike Trail Back On Path

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A north Lake Tahoe bike trail project, stalled more than a decade by insufficient funds and wildlife concerns, could soon be back on track.

The bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has directed staff to find ways to revive the 10-mile bike trail linking Dollar Hill just east of Tahoe City and Tahoe Vista.

The trail would be part of a network designed to reduce air pollution from cars by linking Tahoe to Martis Valley just to the north, where more than 6,000 new homes are projected to be built.

Some agencies had hoped to build the trail in forest, but encountered problems after it was determined the project would disrupt goshawk, owl and osprey nesting habitat.

Representatives from various agencies will begin meeting later this month to consider alternative routes, said Jerry Wells, TRPA deputy executive director.

Wells said the trail might have to follow roads in some places to avoid conflicts with wildlife. But the project's lead agency - the North Tahoe Public Utility District - is set on a trail through forest.

"We're hoping they're going to find some alternative route that keeps the trail within the trees rather than bringing it down to roads," NTPUD director Jeff Lanini told the Tahoe World newspaper. "The challenge ahead is to mitigate the environmental issues."

TRPA spokeswoman Julie Reagan said the agencies must reconcile the needs for wildlife protection and improved air quality. Her agency is charged with protecting Tahoe's environment.

"Once humans interface there, they (birds) won't come back," Reagan said. "Everyone is in support of the bike path. We just have to find a way to balance those needs."

NTPUD has spent about $1 million on land acquisition and studies for the project since 1989 and would have to do another environmental impact statement.

John Hassenplug, NTPUD general manager, said the trail also has major recreation potential.

"In the wintertime the same trail that serves as a recreation route in the summertime serves as a tremendous cross country ski opportunity," he said. "In few facilities do we have the opportunity to build for both summer and winter."